Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 6 May 2012
Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22:26-28, 30-32; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
The prophets sometimes spoke of the people of God as a vine planted and tended by God (e.g. Isaiah 5). But they usually highlighted how useless the vine was at producing fruit. The people did not incarnate justice and righteousness within their community. Jesus is the true vine because he does what the people could not do – he perfectly incarnates the divine life. And he does it in a way that enables his disciples to do the same. Jesus gave us more than a good example to follow; he connects us to the divine. As we live out of that centre, aligning our egos to the indwelling spirit of Christ, our lives will become abundantly fruitful.
If the sap that nourishes us from within is the life that animated Jesus, then our own lives will be characterised by loving generosity of spirit and courage. Every aspect of our being that is fed by that sap will bring glory to God. Every part of us that tries to live out of our own limited ego will fail to produce the fruit that God requires. And what is true for us as individuals is also true for us as a community.
The life that remains in Christ is a life that is characterised by love. Jesus said that our love would be the sign to the world that we are his disciples. We remain in Christ when we cultivate love. Being saturated by divine love, we are enabled to love others.
Prior to his conversion, Saul / Paul lived from deeply held beliefs. His religious commitments and convictions expressed themselves in violent opposition to those who followed Jesus Christ. But his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus road changed him at the core of his being. Now his brilliant mind and religious zeal were redirected toward proclaiming the very message he had tried to destroy. First, though, he needed the loving and courageous intervention of Barnabas before the church in Jerusalem would accept him. Barnabas believed that radical conversion was possible. He was willing to trust the erstwhile oppressor and to believe his testimony. The love that he demonstrates is a love that is willing to take risks and to put itself on the line for others. It is Christ-like, and it bore abundant fruit.