Acts 9: 26-31 1 John 3: 18-34
John 15: 1-8
Intro: as part of one community, we have to love as we are loved. Our faith doesn’t consist of empty words or promises; it’s something alive and active to be used in the service of God and of others in the community. That’s what church really means.
Readings: Luke tells the story of Saul’s conversion, and how Paul continues to have great difficulty in convincing others that he’s turned his coat and become a real true convert to Christianity.
John reminds his readers that their love has to be something alive and active, rather than a mere pretence or empty words. God’s commandments can be summed as belief in Jesus Christ, and loving one another as He has taught us.
Luke the Evangelist graphically describes the turbulent times which hit the early church. As a vehemently Christian-hating zealot, Saul had a truly fearsome reputation: he had persecuted Christians with the same drive which he later put in to spreading the Good News. In today’s reading, however, it’s Saul – or Paul! – who fears for his own life and has to escape the vengeance of the Greek Jews.
In the Gospel, Jesus uses a metaphor taken from the vineyard, a familiar sight to His listeners, and He describes Himself as the true vine. In order to grow, to flourish, to bear fruit, a branch has to remain connected to the main stem; only then can it continue to draw life, nourishment and health from the root. whereas a branch which has been cut off can only wither, fade and die. Jesus goes on to say that those disciples who don’t remain with Him are like branches which \are only fit to be thrown away and destroyed.
There are times when we really need Christ in our lives; it may be when we’re sick, in pain, lonely or depressed; we may have problems which seem to overwhelm us, or difficulties which seem to have no solution. And on a larger scale, the same thing happens at church level. For any group of people, however like-minded, tensions and difficulties will arise. Throughout the centuries church communities have squabbled and bickered – we’re still an imperfect community with a perfect head!
The key line from today’s Gospel is, “cut of from Me you can do nothing.” Jesus gives us the Sacraments to help us flourish and bear fruit: Baptism “irrigates” us; the Eucharist nourishes us; Confirmation, Marriage and Holy Orders build up the Church, while we are “pruned” through Penance and Anointing. If we can see and feel Jesus’ ability to love and forgive without question, and realise that nothing – nothing! – is beyond that love and forgiveness, then loving and forgiving will become possible for us as well. But first of all, we have to forgive ourselves: that sense of unworthiness, that “I’m not good enough, I can’t be forgiven.” It’s only when we overcome that attitude that we’ll be able to do the same. So this week, take a good look at yourself; look at the areas of your life where you need to forgive yourself. Only after that think of someone in your own family, or circle of friends, who has hurt or offended you, and remained unforgiven because of that. Now you can take the first step!