Homily: Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B The vine and the branch

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Homily: Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B

 

Reading 1: Why was the Church in Jerusalem afraid that Saul was back in the city? This was the Saul that had concurred with the martyrdom of Stephen; that had arrested a number of believers; that had gone up to Damascus to bring any followers of the Way back to Jerusalem. All that was several years ago. Now, they hear he is back in Jerusalem, claiming to be a disciple of Jesus. Is this a hoax, a trap?

 

Barnabas, a trusted disciple, a man full of the Holy Spirit heard Saul’s story of conversion and his preaching positively of Jesus as the Messiah.  With Barnabas’ assurance Saul was accepted by the community. With the same zeal that Saul persecuted the followers of Christ, now more zealously he goes about speaking boldly in the name of Jesus.

 

Being a Greek and a Jew, he sought to reach out to the Greek converts to Judaism, the Hellenists. Many of these resented Saul’s attempt to convert them to this new Way of life. They sought his life. When this became known to the Christian community, they got him out of the city. He returned to Tarsus in Turkey, his hometown.

 

This was all according to the plan of God for Paull, whom God intended to set aside to preach the Gospel message to the Gentiles. Meanwhile, the number of Jewish believers grew. For the time the Christians experienced the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

 

What can we learn from this passage? Nothing is impossible for God. Secondly, sometimes converts are more zealous in their faith than cradle Catholics. Thirdly, each of us is called like Paul to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, to come to a deeper conversion and to become proponents of the truth of the Gospel in spite of persecution. We are facing subtle persecution today. We need to be bold in professing our faith.

 

Gospel: Last Sunday we heard about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He shows his love by laying down his life for his sheep. Today, we hear his message concerning the intimacy of his love, for authentic love brings true and lasting intimacy between the lovers.

 

This passage is taken from the Last Supper experience. Jesus tells his disciples of his love first by washing their feet, then by telling them greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friends. Then he showed the depth of his love by embracing the cross in our stead, giving his life that we may have life eternally.

 

Jesus uses the image of the vine and the branches to express this mutual love: his love for us and our love for him.  There is an intimacy between the vine and the branch, experienced because the life of the vine flows into the branch.  There is an intimacy between us and God, which began in baptism. God out of infinite love recreates and redeems us. He likewise adopted us as his sons and daughters, sharing his own divine life with us, through no merit of our own. As long as we remain in him and he in us, we continue to share in this new life, which is further sustained in the Sacraments, especially Eucharist.

 

Have we ever taken this gift of shared life with God for granted?  Do we reflect with gratitude on this gift of his life and love? We are not conscious of breathing; it is a presumed part of our being. But when breathing becomes difficult, when we struggle for air, we become aware of its importance. Do we have to be separated from God through sin to appreciate his living presence within us? Be attentive and grateful for this gift of God’s life and love in the moments after Communion. I live now, not I but Christ’s life in me is a reality that needs a response.

 

Reading 2: John tells us that the proof of our relationship with God is not the words we speak but the actions we do. To believe in the name of Jesus as our Lord and Savior is a revealed truth. To profess that truth is good. But do our actions and way of life back up our words?

 

Jesus commanded us to love one another as he has loved us. He loved us by laying down his life for us in a gift of service. Do we love others the same way—laying down our lives for them, not thinking of any return to ourselves. This way of life will enable us to remain in Christ and he in us in the bond of the Holy Spirit. Love is an action word more than a lip-service word. Anyone can say I love you, but if it is not expressed in some tangible sign of service and care, it is nothing. It is only hot air. But when we love as Jesus has loved us, then we know that Jesus has made a difference in our lives. Then the intimate life we share with Jesus will bear fruit that will last eternally. 

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