5th Sunday of Easter-Cycle B-2009 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.”
Like most of us, those who knew Saint Paul in the process of his conversion did not trust him right away. Always conversions are slightly suspect until they have passed the test of time. Even the daily conversions in our lives don’t always stay with us. Instead, we find ourselves at times trying to do what is good and right and still not doing it. As the life of Saint Paul began to take a new shape and direction, other Christians began to trust him.
Today’s second reading, from the First Letter of John, speaks also about this inconsistency in our human ways of being. It is so easy to tell people we love them and not really do the work of loving. Saint John tells us that we should love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. In our present culture, to love someone often only means that we want them physically or that we have strong attraction to them. In the Scriptures, to love someone means to put their own good before our good.
Saint John’s Gospel today tells us that if we want to live, we must remain in Christ. This means, for us, that we must allow the words of all of Scripture to form us. It means that we must allow the Church to form us. It means that we must allow the Christian community to form us. Why? because Christ is present in a very special way in the words of Holy Scripture, in the Church and in the Christian community. If we want to live in deed and in deed and truth, then we must live our following of Christ in the concrete realities.
At a practical level, following Christ means that we must try to know Him more each day. So often we can find ourselves loving Christ, but learning no more about Him. Our love will then fade. So often we find Christians who still live in a faith given to them as a child, but a faith which has never matured. Just as we mature humanly by meeting all kinds of challenges in our lives, so also we must embrace the challenges of living by faith.
Learning how to defend our faith, to speak openly about our faith, to testify to our faith in front of others—all of this matures us in faith and pushes us to keep growing in our faith.
Let us pray that we will remain in Christ and grow in faith. May our attachment to Christ bring us deeper into faith and into the service of one another because we love Jesus Christ.