The readings for this Sunday blend together to bring messages of hope. Paul and Barnabas spoke words of encouragement to their convert listeners. “We all have to experience many hardships,” they said, “before we enter the kingdom of God.” Paul had previously been stoned in Lystra, as the Jews - who envied the success he was having with his healing and preaching - had turned the people against him. The followers of Christ will suffer but they must persist. The reading from the Apocalypse promises that there will be an end to suffering as God unites himself with his people, with the image of the bride dressed for her husband. There are echoes of Isaiah here; the prophet wrote, “The Lord will be your everlasting light” (Isaiah 60:19). The Jews had just returned from Babylon and had found their land devastated. God keeps on working throughout human history, often in ways we do not understand.
The extract from John’s gospel comes after Judas had left the Passover meal to betray Jesus. This must have been a moment of great distress for Jesus; yet he saw far beyond it to his glorification and, instead of raging at the hurt he had received, he gave the great commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
John the Seer’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth are a reminder that whatever evils people inflict on one another, God will have the last word in the realm where there is only his light.