Behold, I make all things new (Rev 21:5)
God is beauty ever ancient and ever new, confesses St. Augustine. Following this Augustinian example and guided by “God is love,” we can profess that God is love that is ever ancient and ever new.
This love without beginning or end was already—according to our human way of speaking—in the beginning. Hence we consider it ancient. But it is also at the same time new, for it reveals itself to us according to the uniqueness of each one of us and in unexpected and surprising ways.
Already in times past, in partial and various ways, eternal love gave us reason to wonder: it submitted to time and came down to the level of human beings in order to welcome the unfaithful and the wicked, making use besides of human beings who were not so eloquent, strong, wise. And now in these last days, divine love has lavished on us the most pleasing surprise of all, the gift of Jesus (Jn 3:16).
Undeniable and admirable proof of God’s love is that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:7-8). What an extraordinary sacrifice! For “only with difficulty does one die for a just person.” We stand speechless in astonishment in the face of such humiliation of the divine love made flesh in Jesus, on account of which he was exalted and received the “Name-above-every-name,” the only one that saves us.
But Jesus defies human expectations not only in death but also in life. In fact, his astonishing death is nothing but the inevitable consequence of an exceptional life of service and of proclamation to the poor, by word and deed, of the good news of God’s mercy and justice. Thus, for example, the rightly called “Teacher” and “Master” washes, to Simon Peter’s shock, the feet of his disciples. He renounces and denounces all authority in the style of pagans. He explains the lesson clearly. A little bit later, he will give them a new commandment—although also ancient, no doubt.
That we love one another as he has loved us, this is to take part in Jesus’ newness and definitiveness par excellence. His love equips us for mutual love in imitation of him, being “as I have loved you” what makes new and distinctive the new commandment, according to another Augustinian teaching. If, shocked, we reject this commandment, then we shall have no inheritance with Jesus. If we let ourselves be intimidated by the new that is being shown us outside and right away withdraw to our shell (Coste XII, 93), we will never be freed from the self-reference that will make us sick and leave us clinging to the same old things (Pope Francis). Only if we partake of Jesus’ suffering love, undergoing hardships, will we get to keep ourselves in the light even at night and to serve as lowly instruments of God, so that the door of faith may be opened to others.
In other words, unless we believe what has never been told or heard, and eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood, we will have no life within us.