5th Sunday of Easter-Cycle B-2018
FIRST READING 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.
SECOND READING 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 John 15:1-8
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.”
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Today we are invited to remain in Christ as branches in a vine. We do this by recognizing that God is at work in everyone and by striving to keep His commands and to do what is pleasing to God. Always the Christian life sounds easy and yet is a challenge for us all.
The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles. In the Easter Season we read the whole of the Acts of the Apostles. The Sunday readings give us important portions of the Acts of the Apostles. Saint Paul, formerly Saul, was converted directly by the Lord Jesus. Almost everyone was afraid of him because of his previous persecutions of Christians. It was not easy to come to trust that he was not now simply trying another way to find Christians to put them to death. Finally Barnabas believes in him and is able to convince others to accept him.
The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint John. The teaching today is very simple: we must believe in Jesus and we must love one another. The simple teaching is always difficult to live. Belief in Jesus keeps drawing us deeper and deeper into the mystery of God—or we abandon Jesus entirely. Today many people want to believe in Jesus only as a good man and a good teacher. But it is clear: we must accept Jesus as God or reject Him. And if we accept Jesus as God, then we must love everyone, especially those who mistreat us the most. This is how Jesus lived, even pardoning those who put Him to death.
The Gospel is from Saint John and teaches us that we must cling to Jesus the way that a vine is attached to a branch. Our lives must grow from Jesus. We are part of Him and must live in Him and all the force of our lives must come from Him. The only way to be disconnected from Jesus is to be broken off from Him. We can break ourselves off from Him by choosing to no longer be with him. Sin clearly does not break us off from Him when we choose to repent. So repentance must always be at the heart of our life with Jesus.
On this fifth Sunday of Easter, we are invited to trust those who choose the Lord, even if we know that in the past such people may have been against the Lord. We are invited to deepen our belief in the Lord Jesus and always to be faithful in loving one another. We are invited to cling to the Lord, no matter how we fail or sin. Christ has risen from the dead in order to draw us to Himself. Let us sing alleluia and give thanks to the Lord.
Your brother in the Lord,