Ven, 30 Apr 21 Lectio Divina - Anno B
Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
The first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31 is about St. Paul's first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion. In the First Reading of today, we heard how Paul and the disciples of Jesus were striving to bear much fruit. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem to join the disciples, they were already shining in the fruit of the Spirit. When Paul tried to join them, the disciples avoided him with great fear. They knew that he had the reputation of persecuting the Christians. They were unable to believe that Paul was now one of them. Shining in the fruit of the Spirit, Barnabas came forward and took Paul to the apostles. On behalf of Paul, he explained to the apostles how Jesus had spoken to Paul and consequently how Paul had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. Now Barnabas testified his spiritual joy by sharing with the others the Divine intervention of Jesus in the life of Paul. He demanded from them the show love and kindness towards Paul. He aspired to see the growth of the Church and its children. Consequently, Paul preached the Word of God in Jerusalem with the disciples, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. Finally, when his life was threatened because of his service to the Lord, the believers took Paul to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. The Acts of the Apostles records the dedicated work of the early disciples. Their reward was to enjoy peace and growth in the number of those who joined the Church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria. Luke speaks of the peace enjoyed by the church and all the growth was attributed to the Holy Spirit.
The second reading is from the first Letter of John 3:18-24. In today's verses, the Beloved Disciple is urging his readers to believe firmly in Jesus Christ the Son of God and to love their neighbor with a practical love, a love which will help him in his corporal and spiritual needs. John the Apostle in today’s Second Reading instructs his disciples to love in truth and action. He reminds them that love is more than mere words or feelings. True love shines in the keeping of promises that have been made and fulfilled in the deeds of the person. It is not surrounded by one broken promise after another. John says that God makes use of our deeds to reassure our hearts that he will not condemn us for our past sins. God’s command is twofold: We are to believe in God’s Son who saves us from our sins and loves one another. It is then that we have the spirit’s assurance that we are united to God. If we walk in the fruit of the Spirit, our spiritual life does not condemn us. If our spiritual life in Christ does not condemn us, we have boldness before God. Because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him, we can ask God for anything that will spiritually benefit us and we will receive it. Through our actions, we are to bear much fruit as the disciples of Jesus. Through our faith in Jesus and our love towards others, the Heavenly Father is glorified. When worldly children are well behaved, through their actions, their parents are praised. When we as Christians bear much fruit, through our living faith in Christ, God the Father is glorified. God commands us to believe in the Name of Jesus and to love one another. Those who obey this command abide in Jesus and He abides in them. It is by the indwelling Holy Spirit who was given to us by God who will remain with us. For if we shine in the fruit of the Spirit, and then the Spirit of Jesus is within us. If the Spirit of Jesus is within us, then Jesus abides in us. Our new life in Christ encourages us to shine in the fruit before God.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is part of Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper. Recall that John tells the story of Jesus’ Last Supper differently from the other Evangelists. In John’s Gospel, the Last Supper begins with Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Jesus then provides them with a series of instructions. We call this section the Last Supper discourse or Jesus’ farewell discourse. In these chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples about the importance of following his example of love and service, about the gift they will receive when Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit, and about their relationship with Jesus and with the world. The Last Supper discourse concludes with Jesus’ prayer for his disciples.
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the middle of the Last Supper discourse. Jesus speaks about his relationship with his disciples. In his metaphor of the vine and the branches, Jesus is referencing the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is the vineyard, and Yahweh himself tends the vineyard. One of the primary themes of John’s Gospel is to show Jesus to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.
In this passage, Jesus teaches his disciples that his relationship with them will not end after his death; he will remain with them always. This unity between Jesus and his disciples is the basis for their ability to continue to do the work that he began. Similarly, Jesus’ presence with us through the Gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to continue the work of love and reconciliation that he began.
Jesus also teaches his disciples about the importance of the words he has taught to them. Just as Jesus will remain in the disciples, so too will his words. We come to know Jesus through the Scriptures, the living Word of God. Our commitment to be Christ’s disciples is sustained through God’s Word. This commitment is also strengthened by our life of prayer and nourished by the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, Jesus dwells in us, remains with us, and transforms us so that we might bear fruit in his name.
The first part of the passage stresses the necessity of remaining or abiding in Jesus. The Lord invites us to abide in him, and he will do so again several times during his discourse. He will not abide in us unless we first abide in him. Jesus says: “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Therefore it is absolutely necessary for the disciples to abide in Jesus. Those who do not abide in him will not be able to sustain life or bear fruit and therefore they will be cut off. It is important to note that Jesus speaks in a particular order: first, he expresses the fact that the Church must abide in him, and then he speaks of the fact that he himself is called to abide in the Church. The first is the condition of the second.
The second part of the passage emphasizes what happens to those who abide in Jesus as well as those who do not. The goal of discipleship is not just a simple relationship in itself. The real goal is the fruit that such a relationship produces. For discipleship to bear fruit there must be mutual abiding between Jesus and his disciples. Here Jesus teaches us what we must do in order to abide in him. The word abide indicates an affectionate term to remain with. The words of Jesus will abide in us when we meditate deeply upon them and become one with them. For it is then that the Word of God itself will come into us in order to abide and rest in our souls. Thus when the Word of God abides in us and if we are children of God in Christ, then we can glorify God our Father, he who has created us in his Son, and who does not cease recreating us in him, the Christ, the Lord of the entire universe.