Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 15:4a, 5b
May 2, 2021
Try to put yourself in St. Paul’s sandals for a minute.
Imagine how he must have felt, fresh from one of the most dramatic conversion experiences in human history — knocked off his horse, struck blind, taken in by a believer who patiently cared for him and catechized him. The ordeal concluded with his sight restored, but there was much more. He was gifted with a profound change of mind and heart. What a high!
Planning his return to Jerusalem, he was probably bursting at the seams, eager to share his story with the Apostles and disciples. In route, he risked his life proclaiming the truth that Christ was risen. He gladly put aside all else, committing himself entirely to the service of the early Church.
But, on his return to Jerusalem, rather than a warm reception and a loving embrace, he got the coldest of shoulders from…of all folks…those with whom he shared the privilege of being a first-hand witness to the power of Resurrection.
The initial reaction of the disciples is hard to understand, unless, of course, you consider the all too human tendencies towards suspicion, fear, arrogance, and envy, all leading to marginalizing those who look, act, or think differently.
But then again, it might simply have been a matter of ignorance. Maybe the Jerusalem crowd simply didn’t grasp the core of Jesus’s teaching. Maybe they didn’t understand that The Lord introduced The Reign of God…summoning ALL creation to co-exist in solidarity with our Creator…as well as with one another…even those who look, act, or think differently.
Maybe, intimidated by Paul’s conversion story and enthusiasm, they lost sight of the Easter Message…the gift that Christ brought to them after breaking free of the tomb:
BE NOT AFRAID…PEACE BE WITH YOU!
I wonder what kind of reception Paul would be given if he were to drop in on our parish.
Fortunately for humanity, St. Paul’s determination was unaffected by the wall of resistance that threatened his extraordinary contribution to Salvation history. He was not silenced. He forged ahead in his service to God and to the Christian community. Through his preaching and writings, he gently unpacked for us the meaning of Resurrection…elaborating on The Lord’s own proclamation of Divine Mercy and Love.
By reporting the challenges St. Paul faced, and pairing that bit of Church history with the Second Reading that offers encouragement to put faith into action, we are well placed to tackle the parable found in today’s Gospel.
The image of branches sprouting and growing out in every direction from one root reminds us of our human connectedness. Despite the fact that we might look, act, and think differently, we draw on One Life Source…God.
Suspicion, fear, arrogance, and envy are like a disease that can infect and rapidly spread throughout the entire vine. But the Good News is that God’s grace is constantly flowing up from The Eternal Root, nourishing true and lasting conversion. With the help of God’s grace, we can prune away all destructive feelings and come to a profound change of mind and heart.
Then, and only then, can we live with one another without fear…and in The Peace of Christ!