5th Sunday of Easter
05/10/2009
Readings
Acts 9:26-31
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

Today’s first reading conveys the enthusiasm of the newly converted Saul. After his encounter with the Risen Lord, the future Apostle does not simply go home and keep his conversion quiet. Instead he begins to preach to all who will listen about how Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. Luke even tells us that Saul’s enthusiasm is so great that he attempts to join the apostles in Jerusalem, but they still fear him due to his persecuting past! But Paul persists and with Barnabas’ help he speaks “boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:28).

Saul’s conversion clearly had a deep impact on his life – he dedicates his whole life to preaching the good news about Jesus and his preaching produces great fruit. Christ tells us in the Gospel that those who follow him will either produce fruit or will not. Those who do not will be taken away (John 15:2). This sounds harsh, but it is simply the outcome of actions taken. If a follower of Christ does nothing to cultivate that relationship – if he does not spend time in prayer, receiving the sacraments, and performing acts of charity – then the new life within him will wither and die. A branch cannot produce fruit if it is not fed with water and light, and a disciple cannot produce fruit without sustenance either. But Jesus also says that the branch which does produce fruit will be pruned so that it might produce more. To one not knowledgeable about the care of plants, pruning often seems counterproductive: how can cutting off part of a branch allow it to be more healthy? Yet by doing so you allow the remaining part to become more fruitful. Likewise in the spiritual life. By suffering one can become more spiritually healthy. Uniting our suffering to Christ is the greatest way to become more like him. A beautiful example of this truth is Mother Teresa. She accepted her severe inner trials and offered them to Christ in love and humility. In return the Lord granted her an abundant harvest in her apostolate – allowing her to reach millions with the love of Christ.

In our own lives we must do what is necessary to produce fruit: pray, receive the sacraments, and love others. God will use this as the fertilizer to produce fruit in our lives, both internally and in our apostolates, whatever they may be. And we must also be willing to endure the pruning of suffering, knowing that the result will be an abundant harvest.
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