A New Heaven and a New Earth

May 15, 2022; Rev 21:1-5a; 5th Sunday of Easter

Easter is more than getting Jesus out of the tomb. Easter is more than getting us to heaven. Easter is about a new heaven and a new earth. This is what today’s second reading from the Book of Revelation tells us. It insists that through Jesus’ resurrection God has begun a new order of things and that God is moving us all to a new earth, a world in which every tear will be wiped away, where death and mourning, wailing, and pain will be no more. This is a startling statement. And the question we need to ask ourselves today is do we believe it.

Do we believe that our world could come to be a place where evil no longer exists, a place where pain and suffering could no longer be found? That is a big pill to swallow. I think most of us would on our best days be willing to say that the earth could become a better place, a bit more just, somewhat more peaceful. But a perfect place? That may be a bridge too far. Yet our scriptures and our faith insist that a perfect world is exactly what God has in mind, that God intends to make this world free from pain, evil, and death. Jesus’ resurrection is the sign of God’s intention, because if one person could conquer death, then it is possible that death could be conquered for us all. This then is our faith, a new heaven and a new earth, the belief that through God’s power and our efforts our world can be transformed, can be made perfect.

And it is the intention of this homily to dare you to believe it, because if we could claim Easter and believe that evil could be eliminated, it would make it more likely that we would dedicate ourselves to the defeat of evil. If we could claim Easter and believe that this world could be perfected, it would make it more likely that we will find the energy and the wisdom to attain that perfection. Even though there is war in Ukraine, those who believe the promise of Easter refuse to give up on peace—no matter how unreasonable or unlikely that might seem—and continue to work to find ways to eliminate political aggression in the future.

Even though our environment is threatened by thousands of political and economic interests, those who believe in Easter continue to work to protect our planet even if at times their efforts seem futile. Even if your life has been devastated by the end of a relationship through divorce or death, those who believe in Easter continue to move forward in the hope that the future is not simply about surviving but living fully alive again.

Now, of course, we cannot do any of this on our own. We need God’s help. But God is with us. God is committed to transform and to perfect this world. God says in today’s second reading, “Behold, I make all things new.” Dare to believe it.

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