Our first reading, from the book of Acts is an incredibly brief summary of the very dramatic tale of Saul, who was later to be known as Paul. Saul had been known as one who “breathed threats and murder against” (Acts 9:1) the early Jesus followers, so when he tried to join them, they were naturally afraid of him! However, when they heard the riveting story of Saul’s experience with the Risen Christ and how he was now evangelizing in His name – even to his own peril - they were convinced to bring Saul into their community. Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus was probably terrifying for him (recall that subsequently, he lived without his sight for three days!) but it was also a life changing experience because his heart was turned toward good by the Living Christ. It is absolutely incredible to think that you and I are beneficiaries of Paul’s experience, as we read his letters today!
This is what all of our readings today remind us: If we have had an experience of Jesus, the Risen One, and are changed by it, then we must be able to see the good fruits of this experience in my life and in the world. “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,” writes the author of the First Letter of John. It is easy see how this translates for the families and communities devastatingly impacted by gun violence in our country. We have heard members of these communities say to our leaders and politicians that they must stop saying, “You are in our thoughts and prayers,” and actually implement changes necessary to end gun violence. Let us love in deed and truth… this is his commandment for all of us.
My husband and I used today’s gospel reading for our wedding ceremony, so it holds a very special place in my heart. This passage from John was not a statement to our community gathered that special day that we have been perfectly “pruned,” so no further work is necessary. On the contrary, it was a reminder to us that Jesus “remains in” us and we must “remain in” Jesus… It is impossible for the branch to bear fruit when it is separated from the vine! It is very easy to let life move so quickly that we don’t even notice when we’ve become a lone branch, separate from the Vine, yet still trying to bear fruit. So, we must stop, notice, and reflect.
It is my prayer for all of us this Easter Season that we might slow down enough to see where God is moving in our lives and giving us the energy and life to bear fruit. May God let our hearts be continually moved by our own Resurrection experiences so that we may more easily follow Christ’s commandment to love one another - in deed and truth.