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
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.”
What does it mean to remain in Christ? This is something that we must consider today as we listen to the readings. Jesus tells us to remain in Him, Jesus invites us to remain in Him. And He tells us that if we remain in Him, we can as for whatever we want and it will be done for us.
Those are such strong words. And we might begin to think that when our prayers are not answered the way that we want, then we are not in Him. But we have to be very careful about that kind of thinking. When we are remaining in Christ, then we really want what He wants and so we become accustomed to asking for what we want but also adding: Your will be done!!
It should be clear from the first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, that remaining in Christ will not always give us a good reputation nor does it mean that others will think highly of us or even trust us. Being a follower of Christ is about following Christ, not about popularity with everyone else, even those who also follow Christ.
And the second reading wants us to be clear that following Christ means that we must love God both in deed and in truth. It is not enough just to speak about God, we must speak the truth about God. In our Catholic tradition, that means that we must understand the Scriptures and tell others what God has told us about Himself in the revealed Scriptures. Lots of people talk about God, but for us, God speaks to us in Scripture and in His own Son, Jesus Christ. Other insights into God may well be true, but only if there is no conflict with what God has told us about Himself.
Remaining in Christ means living the Word that is given to us in Scripture, it means always pardoning those who offend us in any way, it means helping the poor, it means living in the Christian community, in the Church. Remaining in Christ is persevering in trying to understand His words in Scripture. Remaining in Christ, perhaps most importantly of all, means that we allow every aspect of our lives to be formed by Him and His love for us.
Let us ask today, in this celebration of Holy Mass, that we may choose to remain in Christ, no matter how often we may fail. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us strength and courage to continue seeking to know Christ in His Word. Let us give thank to the Lord for His goodness to us because He gives His life for us that we may live.