Homily Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B Intimacy

By 10:12 AM


Reading 1: Background.  In Jerusalem, Saul was known as the one who concurred and sanctioned the death of Stephen the first martyr. It was also known that he had received letters from the Sanhedrin with authority to go to Damascus and arrest any Christians he would find. He had already arrested some in Jerusalem.

What they didn’t know was that Saul had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus. He had a vision of Jesus, was baptized and began to proclaim Jesus as Lord and Messiah. It is no wonder that the Apostles and leaders were disturbed and cautious when they heard he had returned to Jerusalem. What confused them the most was that this Saul was proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  It was natural for them to fear that this was a ruse.

Barnabas, who had heard Saul teaching publicly, was convinced that he was for real. It was Barnabas that convinced the Christians in Jerusalem to trust what God had done in Saul’s life.

The boldness of Saul was the continuation of the boldness of Stephen. As a result, Saul’s life, like Stephen’s, was threatened. It was necessary to get him out of town, less a new persecution would erupt.

What do we learn? Nothing is impossible for God. Even the strongest opponent can become just as strong proponent by the power of God. In Saul’s conversion we also have validated the statement that sometimes converts are stronger in their faith than cradle Catholics. Thirdly, each of us is called like Saul to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, come to a deeper conversion, and become a proponent of the truth of the Gospel in spite of the threat of persecution. We are facing subtle persecution today and we need to be bold in professing our faith.

Reading 2: This reading makes the connection with today’s Gospel. First of all, what is the great commandment, which should distinguish us as Christians? Love. “By this they will know that you are my disciples—by the love you have for one another.”  How do we know if Jesus has made a difference in our lives? Love. John says that our love is to be authentic and visible, in deeds and actions, not just in words.

If we love this way, we remain in Christ and he in us. There is a major difference between with and in. With expresses some relationship with a person. In expresses an intimate union with that person. Belief in Jesus, commitment and love of him and others are essential to this intimate relationship with God.  At the center of this intimate relationship is the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us and is with us. In this way we please God and never alone.

Gospel: Jesus expressed the intimacy he desires with us by the parable of the vine and the branches. The life of the branch is maintained as long as the branch is attached to the vine. It bears fruit as a result of the life flowing in it from the vine. But if it is cut off and separated, it withers and dies.  The branches are pruned and trimmed to enable them to grow and bear more fruit. Cutting the branch off the vine destroys it; pruning it strengthens it.

How can we conceive intimacy with God? I can see the effect of human living. I breathe, move, think, feel, etc. Do I see the effects of my life with Christ? I can act humanly and I can act in Christ. I can choose out of selfishness or I can choose out of love for Christ. I can live by his word, by loving in deed and in truth or to live apart from his word. It is the difference between intimacy and separation.

Because of the intimacy and union we can ask God for whatever we want because we will be asking according to the will of God. As someone has said, the lover desires what the beloved desires. That is the reflection of the depth of real intimacy and union. What is the fruit that God seeks in us? Love. Love is responded to with love for God and love for others out of love for God. What does this life of love, not in words but in deeds, bring about? Harmony and unity, being one mind and one heart.

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