3rd May 2015
The first reading (Acts 9: 26-31) assumes that you know what has gone before in this chapter of Luke’s story of the early church. Saul, as Paul was called then, had been trying to suppress the followers of Jesus’ Way and in his travels to do this, on approaching Damascus had had a conversion experience: Jesus appeared to him, Luke says, and asked ‘Why are you persecuting me?’ The use of ‘me’ in these words is an indication of the presence of Jesus in His followers, though this may not have been interpreted then as we might take it today. In the Acts of the apostles Luke recounts this experience three times altogether, but in the letters of Paul’s which we have, he does refer to having a revelation (see Gal 1:11-17) but not in the visual and narrative terms used by Luke. According to Luke, after this experience, Saul himself became a believer in Jesus, and in our reading he tries to get accepted by the disciples in Jerusalem and to use his fluency in Greek to speak to the Hellenists who were Greek speaking Jews; but later his vocation will be beyond Jerusalem and even to non-Jewish communities.
The second reading this week is from the First letter of John again. In chapter 3, verses 18-24 he writes about the loving and forgiving presence within those who follow the command of Jesus; the command to believe in Him and to love one another. The 10 commandments have been superseded in this new era initiated by Jesus, which we now call Christianity, although, perhaps because of our weak human nature we still have and certainly need some guideline about how we should live as Christians. The writer’s message, however, is clear – whoever believes in Jesus and loves others lives in God and God lives in him, and the Spirit of Jesus within us assures us of this. This is taken up in later Church teaching, notably by Athanasius, (whose feast it was yesterday), in his work 0n the Incarnation ( see Chapter 8 number 54 in this translation).
In the Gospel (John chapter 15), we have what might appear like the parable of the vine. The Old Testament often refers to the Jews as the vine of God; in that context it is seen as one that needs a lot of tending and that sometimes, even then, produces bad grapes (see Isaiah 5) – it is very frustrating for God to have such problematic people. But Jesus utterly dedicated Himself to please God His Father by loving others and giving them hope of a better life even here on earth. So Jesus is the true vine. But those who live in the same basic way of Jesus share in his life; and just as Jesus’ life was not easy-going, so the lives of His followers will have set-backs – and this is indicated in the parable by the reference to the pruning that the plants need in order to grow all the better and bear good fruit.
More comment on these readings here.