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December 1993

According to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Pet. 3:13)

With these words Peter's second letter reaffirms faith in Jesus' return and in the full establishment of the kingdom of God at the end of time. His words were addressed in particular to some Christians who doubted this would happen, and so justified a very loose way of living.

'If this is the goal that awaits us', the letter goes on, 'then surely we should prepare ourselves and move towards it with holiness and purity of life'.

According to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

The phrase 'new heavens and a new earth', which we also find in other passages of Scripture (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:1), means a world totally different from the one that exists now. And we might immediately be tempted to think of the aspects of this difference which are external and can be experienced by our senses.

Undoubtedly, as we know from other New Testament texts, the present world will undergo a radical transformation at the end of time. But the newness referred to in this verse seeks to draw our attention to a much deeper aspect of this change: that the 'new heavens and a new earth' will be the permanent dwelling place of righteousness and holiness. There will no longer be room for corruption and sin. It will be a world in which the fullness and splendour of our being children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus is manifested.

According to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

In this context, even waiting for the 'new heavens and a new earth' shows itself to be rich in meaning. It is a waiting that is active and full of longing, made real through living out Jesus' words and especially through trying, even now, to fulfil his testament, which sums up all that he said. It is a burning desire that appeals to him to hasten his return.

'If he delays', the letter says a few verses earlier, 'it is because of his mercy and patience towards sinners so that they might be converted, (3:9). It is as if to say that by working to bring about the living of Jesus' new commandment in the world, Christians can hasten the day of his return (3:12), the day of fullness.

According to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

How can we live this month's Word of Life? By renewing our faith in the new world which awaits us and, at the same time, working from now on to bring it about. In fact, the two aspects awaiting the new world and effort in the present world - are indivisibly linked. When Jesus returns, he will come to crown this effort of ours.

Hence for our waiting always to be alive and bright, and so recognisable by Jesus on his return, it must be equally industrious. We must take seriously the task Jesus left us: to build the new world from this very moment, living out the mutual love and unity he wants.

In fact, the early Christians believed in the new world not only because of the Scriptures, but also because by living Jesus' words they experienced its first fruits. Similarly, by living mutual love which can bring the presence of Jesus among us, we too will be able to enjoy a foretaste of the new world.

Chiara Lubich

 

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