Acts 14:21-27; Apocalypse 21:1-5; John 13:31-35
It's good to stand outside the church before Mass and say hello to you all as you come in. You drive your car, you walk, some of you even come on a bicycle. You smile at me and greet me. Many of you I know - some of you I know well. Some are visitors - from interesting places like Singapore, Indonesia, Mauritius, USA, Ireland, Canada, and from other states of Australia.
You come in and take your place, your favourite seat. Some wave to friends at the others side of the church, some greet friends close by, some kneel and cover their faces and pray.
I hope you don't mind that I watch you. I do it with admiration and affection. I marvel at the call from God which has brought us all together, people who are so different and yet all saying yes to the same call: Come and worship.
I am here for the same reason. I want to worship too. In fact, the Church has appointed me as an 'elder', as it says in the first reading from Acts - to lead you all in worship.
Then it comes time to begin Mass, we stand, all together, and we read the Entrance Antiphon together. The Church puts these words on our lips. They are different each week. This week, today, we all said: Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous deeds; he has revealed to the nations his saving power, alleluia.
Sing to the Lord, a new song ... an Easter song, a song of new life and hope and joy, because God has revealed to all the nations, every one of us, his saving power.
This verse was said at every Mass in this parish this Sunday. In fact, it was said all over Victoria, all over Australia, and in every parish throughout the world. Isn't that wonderful?
If we have any kind of imagination at all we could imagine a huge church building, with one, single huge Mass, attended by all the people in the world who said these words this weekend. What a sight! What an experience!
And if our imaginations were really good we could gather at this one Mass all the believers of all times, past and future. Oh my, how awesome that would be! It would be like what St John has been describing each week in the Second Reading from the Apocalypse.
Then we all made the sign of the cross together and I greeted you for the first time with the words: The Lord be with you. And you answered: And also with you.
A lovely transaction - worth meditating on!
We all considered our unworthiness before God because of our sins and we asked mercy and pardon. Every time we celebrate Mass we do this, confident that our everyday sins, that is our venial sins, are forgiven.
Next we sing the Gloria. We sing it even when we say it. It's a most charismatic prayer which demands to be said joyfully with all our hearts: Glory to God in the highest .. we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you ... for you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the most high Jesus Christ ...
The opening prayer follows. Today we prayed that God our Father would look on us with love - his children - and give us true freedom.
Then we sat down and listened to the readings from Sacred Scripture.
What sticks in your mind? I guess it's probably that new commandment Jesus gave us - love one another as I have loved you - how beautiful! It's the hallmark of the Church, our love for one another.
Paul and Barnabas are so energetic in their ministry. Is that the hallmark of our faith - whether we work hard in the Church? No. It's love by which we shall be known as his Church.
Paul and Barnabas taught the faithful. Is that the hallmark of our faith - whether we teach it to others? No. The hallmark of our faith is love, whether we love one another.
Paul and Barnabas encourage the disciples in their sufferings. Is that our hallmark - whether we suffer patiently? If it expresses love for God and neighbour - yes. Otherwise - no. We are a community of disciples known by their love for one another.
Paul and Barnabas appointed 'elders'. Is that the sign we've arrived; when we can say 'Look! I'm a priest'? No. It's always and only love which makes us Jesus' true followers.
Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted. Surely this must mean something. No, not really. It's love which is the hallmark of Jesus' Church.
They came to believe - now that must get us a few points. No, even the devil believes. The hallmark of true belief is whether we love one another as Jesus has loved us.
And how has Jesus loved us?
As the Father has loved me so I have loved you.
Do you see?
- from the Father
- to the Son
- to us
- to others,
and then back to the Father.
And if we love one another then we can apply to our parish what the loud voice in the second reading proclaims: You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them.