Let's not love with empty words but with action and truth- 5th Easter Sunday 2018

Friends, yesterday was the Praying Over for the members of El Shaddai Catholic Charismatic Prayer Partners' life in the spirit's seminar. We thank God for the renewal of the Holy spirit in our lives and community. It would be desirable if many Christians rediscover the work of the Holy Ghost in their lives. Jesus spoke to us and touched all who opened themselves to be renewed in the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the greatest of all teachers. He is the master of pedagogy. He usually does not speak with abstract concepts, but concrete, with rich images and parables. The images he uses are always drawn from everyday life. In all creation we can discover images of God, signs of His Work in the world. There is nothing in creation that does not speak of God. Creation speaks of the glory of God and the firmament announce forth the works of his hands (Ps 19:1; Rom. 1:19-20). Both in the Bible and in life, we ​​see God's actions and the presence of God. Around us, in creation, in nature, if we open ourselves, we can discover signs of God's presence.

In connection with the farewell speech in the John’s Gospel chapter fifteen, Jesus takes up the image of the vine. To understand Jesus’ use of this image, it is important to think of the Old Testament texts with the same vine images and other parables in the synoptics that address the same theme. In the Old Testament, the vine was a symbol of the people whom God had chosen. It is God who has planted his people like a noble vine tree (Jer. 2:21). Israel is described as a vine in psalm 80:9- "A vine came out from Egypt ... Jesus describes himself as the vine:" I am the vine "... Instead of all Israel being a vine, an individual, Jesus becomes the vine while we are the branches of the vine. Yes, the branches are part of the vine and can have no independent existence.

"I am the vine, you are the branches. If anyone is in me and I in him, he bears rich fruit: caught off from me you can do nothing. "Jesus speaks not only with everyday images but with the simplest things that children can understand. On the one side a branch cannot live without being a part of the tree. If it refuses to be a part, it can no longer be a branch, it falls and dies. On the other hand, the vine needs its branches to bear fruit. The branches can be compared to the hands and feet of a human being.

In the first reading, we hear how Paul preached and disputed boldly with the Greek-speaking Jews in Jerusalem (Act 9:26-31). Given that Paul had Greek as a native language, it was natural for him to talk with them. Greek-speaking Jews wanted to kill Paul. They regarded him as a traitor. He deserved death more than the other disciples of Jesus' disciples. The others were not Pharisees and did not belong to the leadership of the Jews. With the help of some disciples, Paul fled to Tarsus via Caesarea.

We hear in Isaiah 5: 1-7 a song about a vineyard. Some say that the Prophet probably sang it during the feast of the Tabernacle: the song about his friend and the friend's vineyard. Vineyard was a picture of the bride (Eccl 2:15, 4: 6). In his vineyard, God has planted noble vines and has done everything in his power so that they thrive. But the vineyard makes him disappointed, it does not bear fruits, but only mischievous, small and hard grapes. Those who hear, understand what had happened. The bride had been unfaithful, she had failed the groom's trust and hope, dropped the groom's expectations for love, the fruit expected of them. Therefore, the friend lets the vineyard to be plundered. The bride becomes erratic.

Israel is the vineyard. God has done everything to save his people, but the people have responded by turning back on him. The Love songs changes to threat to be brought before the court. Israel is abandoned by God. In Psalm 80 we read: "A vine came out from Egypt ... and describes how the vineyard owners had done everything for the vineyard's best. In the parable of the vine in the evening before his suffering, Jesus takes up Isaiah's song in a slightly different way. The vine is no longer an image for Israel. Nor is it a parable of the past but of the audience's situation. It is not something that happened before in the world but expresses the attitude of the disciples to its lord in the present day. Think about the similarity of the vineyard being leased out and the landlords had denied the vineyard owner the part of its fruits belonging to him. Therefore, the vineyard owner takes it from them and gives it to others. The value of a thing is determined by the buyer or the sacrifice one is ready to make to possess it. God has paid in full measure to redeem us from eternal damnation. He loves us so much that he gave his own life so that we can live (Jn 3:16).

­­­­­­­­­­­­­If they reject the words of Jesus, they cannot remain in him nor can they bear fruit in him. It's not something that happened in the past. The important thing in what Jesus said are two words: "I am." Jesus identifies himself with the vine. He has been planted in the earth - the mystery of incarnation. Never again will the vine be pulled up or plundered. Through the Son, God lives in the vineyard. The likeness of the vine expresses the inseparability of Jesus from them, our unity with him. It has a eucharistic background and shows the fruit that Jesus gives us. The fruit the Lord expects of us is love. The prerequisite for us to bear fruit is that we love. No one can build his own holiness. God is not in your life so that you can accomplish your own vision but for you to realize God's vision for you. It's about being in Jesus not in ourselves. Jesus wants us to live in him, and to live in him is to be a branch of the vine. He always wants us in him, so that we can always live in His light and always bear fruit. We are created for God's image and through baptism, a divine life within us.

Against this background, we can understand John in seven verses in the second reading inviting all who read his letters and the Christians to remain faithful in Jesus the Son of God and to love their fellow human beings with a practical love that serves the body and soul. More than nineteen hundred years have elapsed since John wrote his letter, but the truthfulness of the Christian faith has not changed during these years. Today there is need for a living and practical faith than during the first Christian years after Christ. There are more opponents of the Christian message today than they were at that time in Asia Minor. There are today many false Christians. They give the non-believers reasons to reject Christianity. There are many historical explanations for lack of faith in God in countries that were formerly believing countries. Nevertheless, we can say that it is basically caused by the lack of living faith and love among those who, through their position, education and influence, were the leaders of the people. These leaders did not really translate the word of God into action in their lives. The evidence that you love Jesus can only be demonstrated by your keeping his commandments. Only through this can they bear fruit. Do not love with empty words but with action and truth. This is the word of God: that we shall believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love each other as He commanded us. The branch does not bear fruit if it does not remain on the vine. People expect us as Christians to give clear witness of the faith we hope for. Unclear or watered-down Christianity wins no one for Christ. Christian faith is the truth in Jesus' person.

In this connection, we read from John. "Let's not love with empty words but with action and truth (1 John 3: 18-24). This means we can do nothing without Jesus. Our salvation is a gift. From our own power we cannot save ourselves. If the heart does not judge us, we can stand boldly before God. The gospel is the light that guides us to the right path. How does one stay in him? This is the word of God: "To believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and to love each other as He commanded us. Only by staying in the vine can the branches bear fruit. At the same time, the vine needs the branches to bear fruit. God needs people to continue the work of salvation. Therefore, he has chosen people to be co-workers in the vineyard. By becoming the vine, God has made his home among us. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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