John emphasizes Jesus’ eternal “glory”—his incorporation within the majesty of God. Jesus’ identification with God is so complete that even his coming death and departure is seen as glorification (John 13:31-35). The sign of that process on earth is the love he commands his followers to have for one another. The reading from Acts marks the momentous insight of Peter, guided by the Spirit, that even those outside the traditional definition of the people of God were to be included in the circle of Jesus’ followers. The cosmic range of God’s action, celebrated in Psalm 148, is to be imitated by the church, seen in a vision by John of Patmos as the “new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:1-6).
The First Reading
A Report by Rock—Peter—to the Believers in Jerusalem
After the immersion of Cornelius and his household, Rock—Peter—returns to Jerusalem and reports his experience to the Apostles and the rest of the believers. Rock’s experiences of his visions of God’s declaration of cleanliness and of the holy Spirit’s coming upon Cornelius and his household lead him to the astonishing conclusion that God was now including gentiles within the community of Jesus’ followers and granting them repentance.
The Apostles and the kindred followers who were in Judea heard that the gentiles also received the message of God. So when Rock—Peter—came up to Jerusalem, those who were of the circumcision group criticized him, “You went among uncircumcised people and ate with them!” So Rock began to explain to them the sequence of events: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great linen cloth was coming down, being dropped down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. As I was looking at it, I saw four-footed animals, beasts, reptiles, and birds of the sky. I even heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise up, Rock; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing base or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ Then the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has declared clean, don’t you go on treating as base.’”
“This happened three times, then everything was drawn up again into heaven. Just then, three men arrived at the house where we were, having been sent to me from Caesarea. The Spirit said to me, ‘Don’t judge! Go with them!’ So, they went with me, as well as these six brothers, and we entered into the man’s house. He declared to us how he saw an angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Rock; he will proclaim a message to you by which you will be saved, you and your whole household.’ Then as I began to speak, the holy Spirit came upon them just as upon us in the beginning. I was reminded of the Master’s word, how he said, ‘John immersed in water, but you will be immersed in the holy Spirit.’ Therefore, if God gave the same gift to them as to us who believe in the Anointed Master Jesus, who am I to stand against God?” Now after hearing these things, they stopped criticizing and began to glorify God: “Then to the gentiles as well has God granted repentance resulting in eternal life!”
All Creation Must Praise God, Lord of All Creation
The entire range of God’s cosmic creation owes God praise. This creation is what Peter saw in his vision of the great cloth that dropped down from heaven by its four corners and revealed four-footed animals, beasts, reptiles, and birds of the sky. The suggestion is that the church must imitate the praise called for in this psalm. Such praise leads God to empower his people, which the psalm expresses with the metaphor of their “horn” being exalted.
- Praise Yah!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise God in the heights.
- Praise God, all God’s messengers;
praise God, all divine armies.
- Praise God, sun and moon;
praise God, all the stars of morning light.
- Praise God, you highest heavens,
and you waters that are above the heavens.
- Let them praise the Lord’s name,
for God commanded and they were created.
- God established them for eternity;
God set their boundaries, which no one can violate.
- Praise God from the earth:
the sea monsters and all the ocean depths,
- fire and hail, snow and storm clouds,
the raging wind fulfilling God’s will
- The mountains and all the hills,
fruit trees and all cedars.
- Wild animals and all beasts,
creeping things and winged birds.
- Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all the land’s rulers.
- Young men and also young women,
the old along with the youth—
- Let them praise the Lord’s name,
for God’s name alone is exalted.
God’s majesty is upon the earth and heaven!
- God has raised a horn for God’s people;
praise for all these faithful,
for the people of Israel, the people who are close to God.
The Second Reading
Vision of a New Heaven and New Earth
John of Patmos sees a new heaven and new earth (in language inspired by Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22), which host the advent of a new Jerusalem. The city is adorned as a bride, and accommodates the people of God and offers the spring of the water of life (verse 6, also referenced in John 4:14), and even—in fulfillment of the promise in Revelation 2:6—the tree of life (22:2), because this is the place of God’s servants alone.
I saw new heaven and new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had departed, and the sea was no more. And the holy city, new Jerusalem, I saw descending out of heaven, from God, prepared and adorned as a bride for her husband. I heard a great voice from the Throne:
“Look, the dwelling of God is with humanity,
and he will shelter with them,
and they will be his people—
and God himself will be their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and there shall no longer be death or mourning
or outcry or pain, because the former things have departed.”
The one who sits upon the Throne said, “Look, I will make everything new.” He said:
“Write, because these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me:
“It has happened. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To one who thirsts, I will freely grant the fountain of the water of life.”
Jesus Commands to Love in his Absence
The community of John’s Gospel presents Jesus’ death and departure as a glorification. To prepare for Jesus’ absence from the committed disciples and the later community of John’s Gospel, he encourages them to continue acting as witnesses by loving one another. In this way, they can continue to experience Jesus’ presence in the community.
When he went outside, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. God will glorify him in himself, and will at once glorify him. Children, yet a little while I am with you: you will seek me, and just as I told the Judeans—‘Where I depart you are not able to come’—I tell you also now. A new command I give you, that you love one another: just as I loved you, you love one another. By this all shall know that you are my committed students, if you have love amongst yourselves.”