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.”
Think about this disciple of the Lord, Paul. In the first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, he is still called Saul. He had persecuted the Church ferociously and now wants to be part of the Church. The fear of the early followers is completely understandable. Do wolves change to lambs? No often!
The same thing happens today when a person known as a bad Catholic or a bad person decides to change their ways, for whatever reason. Such a person must be ready to accept doubts and rejections and even bad behavior on the part of the believers, because the believers are not saints, but just humans who do believe.
We must ask ourselves: do I accept it when a person changes and asks forgiveness?
In the second reading today, from the First Letter of John, we are reminded of the teachings of Jesus while He lived on this earth. It is Jesus who tells us through His followers: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. What does that love mean? It is not about feeling good about another person. No, it is about doing good for the other person, no matter who he or she is. If that person has completely offended us, has destroyed someone we love or even ourselves—that does not matter. We must love that other person completely.
And so we come to the Gospel of today, from the Gospel of Saint John. This again teaches us about love when it teaches us to remain in Jesus. This is not just a thought or a feeling, but an actual choice every day. We must remain in Jesus by following His example and doing what He told us. And the principle teaching of Jesus is always that we must love God and love one another. That love for others is always tested if we love our enemies. It is not tested if we only love our friends.
Christ is risen! Christ rose from the dead in order that we might have life. The life we have is not the life that world wants us to have. We are not here to seek pleasure and enjoyment and power and sex and money. We are here to love and to sacrifice ourselves in love just as Jesus did. If we do this, the life of the world to come will be ours in abundance, in every way. Jesus is not threatening us, but telling us the way to live in order to rejoice forever with abundant life.
We can understand this love so easily. If we look only for ourselves, then in eternity we will have only ourselves. That is not much consolation! If we love god and others in this life, we will have God and others forever. Let us choose wisely now so that we can live with joy and delight forever. Christ is risen. Alleluia.