Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.
All the members of the church saw them off, and as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.
But certain members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders met to look into the matter.
‘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.’
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
As a father, I really like it when my kids come to me to ask for help. It makes me feel like I’m needed in their lives. It’s good to know that my kids place their trust in me to help them through the problems that they otherwise couldn’t (yet) solve on their own. However, as a son, I find it quite difficult to turn to my own parents for help. The last thing I want them to think is that I’m incapable of figuring out problems for myself. The dilemma we all face is our constant desire for independence, while still remaining in a loving situation with the ones closest to us.
In the Gospel reading from today, Jesus is trying to teach His disciples about the importance of remaining connected to Him through the Word. Even Jesus declared that He was only doing what His Father had commanded Him “so that the world may learn that I (Jesus) love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” Whoever loves Christ should lean on Him for strength, ask Him for wisdom and obey His commands.
That is quite a contrast to how most of us are conditioned to live by our society. We are told that as individuals, we need to be independent and to love ourselves first; that our primary goal is for our own self-fulfillment. That we are entitled to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Is there anything wrong with that?
Nothing. Except that it fails to see that the road to eternal happiness is the road paved by the Lord. And as we travel that road, we either opt to follow the world or be led by Jesus Christ. Even as undeserving, sinful people, we are blessed with the goodness and mercy of a God who has promised us eternal salvation when we remain in Him. As the United States Declaration of Independence states – “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
Brothers and sisters, let us be reminded that the Lord has granted us numerous blessings, especially the freedom of choice. Do we choose to worship the fleeting things of this world or be slaves to Christ?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)
Prayer – Lord, we ask that You soften our stubborn hearts and help us to constantly seek You out in our daily lives.
Thanksgiving – Father, we thank you for being an eternal God that has blessed us more than we can possibly understand. May the truth of Your sacrifice be self-evident to all men and women of this world.