Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sunday word, 03 May 15

More Than an Image
Fifth Sunday of Easter B (03 May 2015)
Ac 6. 26-31; Ps 22; 1Jn 3. 18-24; Jn 15. 1-8
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus promised future presence among his followers at his Last Supper: I am the vine, you are the branches. Jesus organic image also describes the communion we call the church. Early in this Fourth Gospel two of the Baptizer’s disciples followed Jesus when John called him the Lamb of God. Jesus turned and asked them what they wanted. They desired to know where Jesus stayed.Disciples wanted to know the place a rabbi stayed so they could come and learn.

Imagine we were among the earliest Christians hearing this gospel. We would hear it in Greek and the word we would hear for residing, for staying, for remaining would be the same word: abide. When we heard Jesus promise his future presence with us as vine and branches we would hear the same word: Abide in me, as I abide in you. …as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it abides on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.

When I learned that I realized that to abide in Jesus is to enjoy truer and more real living; abiding with Jesus is more than the very important learnings of many kinds. Abiding with Jesus is relationship with him and Jesus with, in and among us. That relationship establishes and protects our communion we call the church.

All of Jesus’ ministry glorified God.2 By the mutual indwelling and abiding of Jesus and disciples, all his disciples also glorify God: By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Often from our human perspective we marvel at the disciples: that they left everything to follow Jesus3; that they persevered in following Jesus; that they announced Jesus boldly in the face of opposition. They did all those and more, yes. They were empowered by Jesus’ Spirit with whom they cooperated in all they did.

Barnabas, for example, had to defy human logic to introduce Saul as a disciple of Jesus. The facts were beyond question: Saul had sought to destroy the church…breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord.4 Holy Spirit empowered Barnabas to defy human logic and reassure the disciples that God had touched and transformed Saul into one of them.

Barnabas lived up to his name—son of consolation—by rescuing Saul and dispelling the fear his name put into the disciples. Holy Spirit chose Barnabas to do that. The consolation of the Holy Spirit gave growth to the church through him.

Our scriptures let us see two key, enduring effects Holy Spirit’s consolation had on the earliest Christians. One is comfort. Barnabas consoled; he was one instrument by which Jesus’ Spirit continued Jesus’ signature way with his own. Another was boldness. Barnabas reassured disciples the former murderer of disciples of Jesus had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. Barnabas helped the disciples recognize themselves in Saul: Holy Spirit led them beyond their fear to proclaim Jesus as Messiah and Lord. They experienced holy boldness as a gift of Holy Spirit; it allowed them to love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

The church prays we will become disciples of Jesus in name and in truth5; that we profess God’s Son not just in word or in speech, but also in works and in truth.6 Holy Spirit is eager to give us the same gifts of consolation and boldness so our witness may extend Jesus’ church in ways that give glory to Jesus, his Father and their Spirit.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Barnabas and St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for his presence with you every moment.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to allow him to prune you with his word into a stronger, more mature branch on his vine; and for holy boldness to make him better known by what you do and say.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Our regular praying the words Jesus gave us keeps us joined to Jesus in ways that fit our times and our needs.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. John 1.35-39.
  2. John 13.31.
  3. Matthew 19.27; Mark 10.28; Luke 5.11.
  4. Acts 8.39.1.
  5. Prayer after Communion, The Baptism of the Lord, Roman Missal.
  6. Prayer after Communion, Ninth Sunday of the Year, Roman Missal.

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