Wed, May 11, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

5th Sunday after Easter

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

Ⓒ Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash.

Bible passages


John 13:31-33a 34-35

When he had left, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. (If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Biblical Homilies


When he had left, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. (If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. (cf. verse 31-32)

This text, rather short, is a bit complicated. It describes a mystery that is very difficult to express in words. Jesus is in the Upper Room. He is about to suffer. Judas has already gone out into the darkness to betray Jesus. It is at this moment that Jesus says emphatically: "Now", that is, at this very moment, the Son of Man is glorified. This is the hour of which he has spoken before, saying, "My hour has not yet come. It is the hour when he passes from the world to the Father, the hour of his death and resurrection. In Jn 13:1, he insists strongly on this point: "It was before the Passover. Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he showed them his love to the end".

This "now, now" has already been repeated several times in the previous texts. Jesus speaks several times of his hour. This is the hour for which he became man and lived. It is the hour when he is lifted up on the cross and glorified. It is here that the inadequacy of human language becomes apparent. Jesus is glorified at the very moment when he suffers the ignominious death on the cross. It is at that moment that the meaning of his life, the redemption of humanity, is fulfilled. Last Sunday we heard how the Father entrusts his sheep to him to redeem them. They are entirely his. Jesus' elevation, the culmination of his life, is the redemption of humanity.

"Now the Son of Man is glorified": It is difficult to find parallels to this mystery. Perhaps a possible parallel would be this: Someone invents something and suddenly discovers that other people can use their invention and enjoy it. The inventor is thus recognized, one might say: glorified. In today's gospel text, glorify does not simply mean something earthly, but something heavenly. Jesus has now reached the height of the Father's will. He is thus fully glorified in God. Jesus speaks in the third person when he says, "Now the Son of Man is glorified. The title Son of Man was already used by the prophet Daniel to designate the one who will come on the clouds of heaven. Therefore, Jesus describes a heavenly event with his words, because he is fulfilling the will of his heavenly Father completely and without restriction. Now the Son of Man is glorified in God the Father.

This glorification by the Father does not only mean the glory of heaven after the ascension, when Jesus is again with the Father, but the glorification through the communication of salvation to men. By saving people and thus fulfilling the will of the Father, Jesus is glorified. Every time we joyfully accept his salvation today in the sacraments, in preaching, in the word of God, in all that the grace of redemption has allowed us at his elevation on the cross, Jesus is glorified, because he is recognized by the fact that he has redeemed us and that we accept the salvation he has offered us. The glorification of the Son of Man and the glorification of God are merged. Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify him in him and he will glorify him soon, because there is only a short time left before the ascension, but also before the lifting up of Jesus on the cross. Here the last sentence of last Sunday's gospel resounds again: "I and the Father are one".

In the end, we cannot find the right words to express this mystery. The glorification of the Son is at the same time the glorification of the Father, because the Father wanted to redeem us and draw us back to himself. The Son accomplished this mission, so that the glorification of the Son through redemption is at the same time the glorification of the Father. The glorification of the Son of man and the glorification of God are described here as a succession and an entanglement. If God is glorified in him, then if the Son is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in him. Think of the unity between the Father and the Son. The Father is glorified in Jesus. In his infinite mercy, he wanted our salvation and redemption. Both the Father and the Son are involved in the work of redemption, so both are glorified. The Father did not witness the death of the Son on the cross, but gave himself in the Son. He endured the separation of the Father and the Son when the Son took sin upon himself.

"My little children, I am still with you for a little while. You will seek me, and what I said to the Jews." (cf. verse 33a)

After the glimmer of hope of glorification, Jesus reveals to his disciples the painful fact of the coming separation. Here he lovingly calls the disciples "teknia" (τεκνια), "little children." This designation appears only at this point in the gospels. In the Greek text, Jesus does not say "little time", but only "briefly" ("mikron" μικρον ) - and this on Holy Thursday. But on Good Friday, he is taken away from them until Easter Sunday, and then again at the Ascension, to finally be completely with the Father.

"I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (cf. verse 34)

The new commandment Jesus gives to the disciples is the sign of discipleship. The disciple must be recognized by this new commandment. After Jesus leaves, the disciples are alone. How are they still connected to him? By the fact that they live, like Jesus, for their fellow men, that is, they live love. Jesus says: "This love is not yours, but mine. It is by my love that I am bound to you. So you are not alone and abandoned." Elsewhere, Jesus says, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you." (Jn 15:9) Here it says: "As I have loved you, so you also should love one another". In Greek, it is not the human love that is expressed by "philein" (φιλειν), that is, friendly love, but "agapein" (αγαπειν), the divine virtue of love. This love is a person: the Holy Spirit. This love of the Father for the Son is the love of the Son for us, so that in him we experience the love of the Father and thus the presence of the Father. This love of the Son for us is the Holy Spirit, the love in us. Thus, through this divine love, we in turn experience the presence of Jesus in us. This is why Jesus speaks of a new commandment.

"As I have loved you, so you also should love one another". In Greek, this "how" is referred to as katos, that is, a justifying "how." The justification for the fact that we love one another is not the human love that we can live by ourselves, but the divine virtue of love that makes us capable of loving even the love of enemies, far beyond purely human love. That is why Jesus says: "This love is a new commandment. Until now, it was not possible for you to love like this. You have certainly loved humanly, but you have also hated a lot. Often you could not love where human love had run out of steam. But now there is a new commandment, because a new strength is given to you through redemption." Now, when Jesus goes, when he is glorified, when his hour comes, he will merit for us the Holy Spirit, the "agape" (αγαπη), the divine virtue of love that was infused into us in baptism.

So if we find ourselves in a difficult situation, where it is hard for us to love a person, we should always ask ourselves: should we really hate this person? Should we say a bad word to him or her, or can we feel in ourselves: there is no compulsion in me, I must not hate. I can also keep quiet. I can also wait to find good words for him one day. If we are part of the sheep - think of last Sunday's gospel - that is, if we are truly united with Christ, if we allow the divine virtue of love, the Holy Spirit, then we can indeed love. We don't have to hate, even if all our feelings are agitated. We don't have to let our feelings run wild and consciously fight against the person we have trouble with. We can accept them as they are. We can wait. And suddenly we experience a new power within us: the divine virtue of love. That is why Jesus gave us a new commandment. Before, it was not possible for us to love like this. Now it is possible. The Father's love for the Son, the Son's love for us and our love for each other are the same power of love. Jesus can phrase this love as a commandment, because it is more of a force than a commandment. It is an ability. Jesus tells us something wonderful here.

"By this all will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another." (cf. verse 35)

We recognize that we belong to Christ, just as Jesus belongs to the Father, by the Son's love for the Father. As for the disciple, he is recognized by his love for Jesus and for those who belong to Jesus, that is, by this new commandment, by the power of redemption.

The greatest power of redemption is this love. This is how we recognize true redemption. That is why it is so sad to see that in the churches, true good Christians, who even unite to do more than others, fight and exclude each other, so that love is suddenly no longer lived there. At such times, redemption can no longer be felt, for it is manifested above all in the principal commandment of love. Let us beware of this and discover the power of love that led to this new commandment, the divine virtue of love, "agape" (αγαπη). It is by this love that the world will recognize the disciples. This divine virtue of love is quite different from what the world understands and lives by love. Let us therefore be attentive to this characteristic of the Christian that defines disciples. ∎