Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)
Last week it was sheep: this week, the vine. Jesus offers us another (agricultural) image to explain the mystery of his offering of himself, and our belonging to him, our being part of him, which comes about through the sacrament of Baptism. This is, as was stated earlier, the period of Mystagogy, when the newly baptised are helped to see what life in Jesus Christ really means. Today this comes out strongly for all of us, with two of the three readings emphasising the moral aspects of life in Christ: it is not simply enough to “belong” to him: our belonging must be shown by the works we do, by the fruits we bear - while remembering of course that we cannot bear fruit except in him.
Notes For Readers
First Reading: Acts 9:26-31.
We jump quite dramatically from Saint Peter and the events in Jerusalem, which we have been reading for the past few weeks, to a fragment of the story of Saint Paul. As we join him, he has become a follower of Jesus, after his conversion on the road to Damascus. Let’s recall why we are reading this book in Easter: it is the story of what the Resurrection and Appearance of Jesus achieved in the lives of the earliest disciples: it is about the birth of the Church. So we now hear briefly about the beginning of Paul’s ministry, which will mean the great expansion of the Church through the Roman Empire. As you relate this simple account, underline the words which add extra colour to the scene, such as Saul preaching “boldly” and ”fearlessly”. Also emphasise the final paragraph, which can appear to be a bit of a throwaway line: the key phrase is “building themselves up...”, which is the theme of this Easter Season. As we hear of these communities “building themselves up” we can perhaps think of our own Parishes, which may well have welcomed new members this Easter. Also note the reference in the last line to the Holy Spirit: by now our thoughts may well be turning towards Pentecost, so it is good that this mention of the Spirit helps us to think about the coming feast.
Second Reading: 1 John 3:18-24.
How do we live as members of Jesus Christ ? This is the implicit question that Saint John is answering today. This applies not just to those new to the faith, but to all of us, as we use Eastertide to revitalise our faith and practice. There are some very clear statements in this reading: use them. The first three lines are an example. These should be read carefully and clearly, not challenging people, but inviting them to see the ‘common sense’ of the statement and apply it to their own lives. The whole of the next section is based on a single premise: that if we keep God’s commandments, we have nothing to be afraid of. Make ,sure you understand this basic idea, and so work out how you can best proclaim John’s words in a way that will make sense to your listeners. At the end, note the reference to the role of the Holy Spirit, again perhaps leading us towards Pentecost.