29 April – 5th Sunday of Easter
When Saul got to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles, and explained how the Lord had appeared to Saul and spoken to him on his journey, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul now started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. But after he had spoken to the Hellenists, and argued with them, they became determined to kill him. When the brothers knew, they took him to Caesarea, and sent him off from there to Tarsus.
The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up, living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.
1 John 3:18-24
our love is not to be just words or mere talk,
but something real and active;
only by this can we be certain
that we are children of the truth
and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence,
whatever accusations it may raise against us,
because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.
My dear people,
if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience,
we need not be afraid in God’s presence,
and whatever we ask him,
we shall receive,
because we keep his commandments
and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.
‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’
“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active”
I just love ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. The book talks about how a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is thrown into an adventure against his nature. If he could choose, he would prefer to potter around the house, have his multiple breakfasts (as Hobbits are known to do!), drink his mead and do whatever Hobbits like to do.
While he begins his journey reluctantly, there comes a point when he makes a conscientious decision to continue with it, despite being given an option for him to return home; the home he so desires.
At the end of his exploits, Bilbo returns home, only to realise that he has returned a different Hobbit from when he first began; he can no longer go back to his ‘old self’ after having gone through his experiences.
In the first reading of today, we read about how the converted Paul (formerly known as Saul) tries to join the disciples. They are afraid of him, the great persecutor of the Christians. How can it be that such a hater of the Christians can experience such a conversion and decide to join them? How is it even possible?
In the Gospel today, our Lord Jesus tells us that it is possible. He alone is the true vine and if we are truly plugged in to this true vine, we would bear much fruit. We need to have faith in this truth.
I have been guilty of being a skeptic. I once shared with my wife about how I did not like someone (from my past). I related my past experiences about how I had been wronged by that person. Quietly, she would remind me that it is possible that the person may have changed and that I should give them another chance. How right she was. If God continues to give us opportunities to change and become better people, who are we to judge them? If God has forgiven our debt of 10,000 talents, who are we go about demanding our 100 denarii?
Let us learn never to be judgemental. Like Barnabas in the first reading, let us learn to be forgiving.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer: Lord, we pray that we may learn to forgive those who have wronged us. Let us learn, instead, to be beacons of our faith in You, and draw others to You.
Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for loving and forgiving us first. Thank You for sending our Lord Jesus to us to show us how to forgive, and love others.