Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him. And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus. The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.
1 John 3:18-24 3:18-24
Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
We are invited today to consider our belonging to the Lord and to the Church. The first reading immediately presents us with a picture of Saul. Newly converted to Jesus, provoking fear in the Christian community at Jerusalem. The other people would not believe that he now really followed Christ.
We humans only come to trust people slowly, even as Christians. Our Christianity does not take away our common sense: when someone has been working to destroy us, it is not easy to believe that a conversion is possible.
This is important to understand authority and leadership and service in the Church. When we see that someone really leads us to the Lord Jesus and to God, we slowly begin to give our trust to such a person. Perhaps in the past, Catholics would more immediately trust any priest or nun or religious sister or brother, but today that is much less the case. We should not be surprised at this nor even think that it is perhaps a loss of authority in the Church. Instead, it reflects a return to a deeper understand of Christ’s role in our life.
We are all part of the vine when we remain in Christ and seek to do His will. We form Christian communities by this faith in Christ. Those of us who are Catholic have come to accept the Catholic Church and its teachings as presenting the truth of Christ and as carrying out His mission in the world in a way that other Christian Churches do not. For us, part of remaining connected to the vine as its branches means faithful acceptance of the Church and its teachings and in many ways, acceptance of the role of the Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father.
Perhaps some 50 years ago or more, people who held positions of authority and service, in the Church or in civil life, were given respect and trust simply because they held those positions. That seems no longer true in our present age. Everyone feels free to criticize anyone. Catholics freely disagree with the Holy Father, with bishops and with anyone else in authority in the Church. Many, of course, see this as the destruction of the Church. The same thing happens now in civil society. No one is above criticism and no one is given trust and confidence simply because they have a particular job or title.
Our readings today invite to continue to understand the world and our participation in it through the eyes of Jesus Himself. Once again, we are brought to the same place: speak the words of Christ, live as Christ and in that living and speaking is born the Christian community. Because I am a truly convinced Catholic, I also believe that a deep search for the truth will bring Christians to the Catholic faith.
The most important aspect is to allow the Word of God to penetrate us deeper and deeper. We must strive to let that Word form every aspect of our lives. We must strive to live with deep inner peace and tranquility so that we can listen to that Word. We must spend time each day with the Word of God. We must be totally committed to following the Word of God wherever it takes us. “Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,” and we can become fully alive. It is in our actions that we know who we really are. At the same time, we all admit that we are still “in process.” We are Christians, Catholics, becoming more completely in deed and in truth followers of Christ.
Today we can ask our Risen Lord to open our hearts and minds more completely to his Word, the Word of God. We can ask the Holy Spirit to illumine our hearts and our minds so that we can see the truth and have the courage to live it in our deeds.