Scripture: 1st Reading: Acts15,1-6; Resp. Psalm: Ps122,1-5; Gosp. Accl.: Jn15,4,5; Gospel: Jn15,1-8
It took time before the early disciples broke away from their Jewish matrix. This is not strange because most of the early disciples were Jews and the law and customs and traditions of their people were the ones they had always known. It was therefore a cause of dissension whether to maintain continuity with these practises or assert their own independence as a new religion. The latter position eventually prevailed.
One of the thorny issues was that of circumcision. This was a sign already established since the time of Abraham as the mark or sign of the covenant between him and God. Every male child who was not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin was to be cut off from Israel. Anyone who was not circumcised was deemed to be outside the covenant.
Some of the early disciples, especially the converts from the Pharisees' party, and thus the very strict observers of the law, wanted all new converts to the Christian religion to be circumcised. There were others, especially led by Paul and Barnabas, who held the opposing view. This snowballed into a crisis in the young community of believers. To arrive at a resolution of this problem and achieve peace, the matter was reported to the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem
Even in this instance, which could have spelt the death knell of the early Church, the Spirit of the Risen Lord triumphed. Our Lord during His lifetime had told them that He was the vine and His Father the vinedresser. Every branch that bore no fruit was to be taken away; every branch that bore fruit the Father pruned, to make it bear even more fruit.
He categorically asked them to abide in Him so that He might abide in them. In His words, "as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. " Our Lord further said that whoever abides in Him and He in him is the one that bears much fruit, because apart from Him we can do nothing. He told them also that if they abide in Him and His words abide in them, they could ask whatever they will and it shall be done for them.
The Apostles and elders must have remembered these words of the Lord. They must have remembered that cut off from the Lord, they could do nothing. They must have remembered that His word was paramount and was the authentic guide of their conduct and actions. Their adherence to the teachings and commands of their Master resolved for them that second lingering crisis that could have torn their community apart.
Apart from Him, we too can do nothing. Apart from Him, we too wither. Apart from Him, we make terrible mistakes that we later regret. When we are apart from Him and do not pay attention to His word, we fail. When we are in Him, allow Him to guide and direct us, we bear much fruit as He Himself promised. Let us listen to His voice today and enter into His peace.
Let us pray: "O God, restorer and lover of innocence, direct the hearts of your servants towards yourself, that those you have set free from the darkness of unbelief may never stray from the light of your truth." Amen
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.