True Discipleship: Fruition in Truth and Action – 5th Sunday of Easter
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB
SERMON AND CHRISTIAN ACT IN THE WORD
Theme: “Integrity of true discipleship – Fruition in Truth and Action”
Point of reflection: As good Christians, we need to abide in Christ as Jesus is telling us in the Gospel of today that“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” am I bearing fruits? And what kind of fruits am I bearing? It is by remaining in Christ that we will produce good fruits embodied with love. The Scriptural readings of fifth Sunday in Easter point to that reality of fruition in truth and action by abiding in Christ.
First Reading: Acts 9:26–31
Psalm: Psalm 22:26–28, 30–32
Second Reading: 1 John 3:18–24
Gospel John: 15:1–8
Sermon (Reflection): The call of today’s Scriptural readings is on the integrity of our discipleship and fruition in truth and action. Are we true disciples who bear good fruits? Are we abiding in Christ? Bearing good fruits with love is what the integrity of discipleship entails. The first reading of fifth Sunday of Easter (Cf. Acts 9:26–31) offers two realities of a true disciple of Jesus Christ, thus, transformation and acceptance.
The central figure in the first reading is Saul. Saul converted from being a murder and persecutor to a good Christian and a true disciple of Christ. That is transformation and acceptance. Some of us today are persecutors and murders, not in action but in our words, what we talk and say, may be that we are persecuting and murdering others, but with the call of today’s readings, we can convert and be transformed as Saul changed to Paul and became a prominent apostle.
Notably, the first reading shifts attention from Peter, whose speeches were presented on the last two Sundays, to another key figure in the early Church, the apostle Paul. Soon after his conversion, Paul, still known by his Jewish name “Saul”, arrived in Jerusalem. He travelled from Damascus where – after having “seen the Lord” – he was transformed from a persecutor of the Church to an enthusiastic evangeliser.
His zealous preaching and activities, in Damascus, met with such opposition that his life was put in danger. He eventually fled the city at night in a basket lowered from the city walls (Cf. Acts 9:23-25). Arriving in Jerusalem, Paul found that the Christians there were afraid of him. After all, he was a leading figure behind the killing of Stephen, and an aggressive and determined persecutor of Jesus’ disciples in the city.
Not surprisingly, many Christians doubted the genuineness of his conversion, many “did not believe that he was a disciple”. Only Barnabas trusted Paul enough to introduce him to the leaders of the community, the apostles. Soon, Paul was “speaking boldly in the name of the Lord”. Once convinced of the truth of the resurrection and of Jesus’ lordship, Paul translated this conviction into fervent evangelising actions.
He carried out his mission with such zeal and determination that he eventually became the greatest apostle of the apostles. This is a call to us Christians to be great apostles cum good Christians. Am I a true disciple of Christ? Am I bearing fruits? And what kind of fruits am I bearing? Am I not a fruit of sadness in my family or community?
The first fruit we encounter in today’s biblical readings is love and it is well reflected in the second reading (Cf. 1 John 3:18–24). In the second reading the author of 1 John continues to outline the basic guidelines for the life of his community. He consistently refers to its members as “the beloved”, reflecting his view that God’s love lies at the root of their Christian identity. He summarizes this identity through an admonition, “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action”.
As true Disciples of Christ, there is only one thing that we need to do, thus, an act of love, love in truth and action not in word. How many times have we told our friends or relatives that I love you and yet, it is not true love.
It is a calling today for us Christians to act in love with truth and action not just mere words. We need to be true disciples embodied with integrity and love.
Reflecting on the Gospel of today (Cf. John: 15:1–8), it is quite interesting to note that, it contains one of Jesus’ “I am” statements, “I am the true vine”. Like the other statements of this type in the Gospel according to John, this one reveals something essential about Jesus mission and identity, and about His relationship to believers. The image of the vine and branches symbolizes a close link existing between Jesus and the community. The life and fruitfulness of each member, of each “branch”, depends on its unbroken connection to the vine. Therefore, Jesus insists on the necessity to “abide in me as I abide in you”. Such intimate union is not a matter of choice but an existential necessity. Unless an unbroken link between Jesus and a believer exists, the latter cannot bear fruit, cannot be alive. As people of God, are we abode in Christ? What kind of fruits am I bearing?
In the Gospel, the evangelist John emphasises that union with Jesus Christ bears fruit in and through frateral love. However, the Gospel passage adds an additional dimension to this teaching. The author speaks of God’s “pruning” of those who abide in Jesus.
This pruning does not remove or cut anything off a believer. Jesus indicates that His followers have already been cleansed by His word. There is no need for further cleansing because they have already been instructed by their teacher in ways of life and led to believe in Him on the strength of His word.
This pruning, therefore, refers to God’s animation and inspiration at work in the believers leading to ever greater fruitfulness. Unity with Jesus makes it possible for God to act in the believers with the aim of increasing active love among them. This love is the benchmark of discipleship. However, the practice of such love by a true disciple also brings glory to God because it makes God’s love perceptible to the world and felt by others. The integrity of discipleship implies coherence between the claim to be a true disciple and actions that confirm such claims.
Thus, the truthfulness of discipleship must be confirmed by acts of love. When performed, the same loving actions of the disciple demonstrate the truth that his or her God is indeed the God of love. As God has loved us (Christians), we also need to love others in truth and action. That is the fruit of being a good Christian.
Christian Act in Word of God “Integrity of a true disciple-living a life of love and bearing good fruits”
If God had placed love and truth in material wealth, only the rich would possess it. If love and truth was to be found in books, only the learned would get it. If love and truth resided at religious sites, only the religious would possess it. Thankfully, love and truth is available and accessible to all. We have no excuse as Christians that we do not have the path to true discipleship. God has offered it freely. We need to live life of integrity embodied with love and bearing good fruits.
Reflecting on the second reading, we encounter a Christian act in word which is “Living in truth” this simply means living “in Jesus”, which the author describes as “abiding” (Cf. John 16:23). Abiding in Jesus, expresses itself in and through the action of love. This Christian love imitates God and Jesus in their utter commitment to those who choose to abide in Jesus. Such love seeks the greatest good of a fellow believer. It is a commitment to the cause of making a fellow human being live a fuller life. Abiding in Christ means that faith and love are inseparable, they correspond to truth and action.
As Christians, we need to bear good fruits and live well with life of integrity. Our Christian act is to be true disciples with life of loving and bearing good fruits.
In this Eastertide, we celebrate the mystery that love and truth never dies. Let us live in love. In union with the resurrected Christ we carry with us the fragrance of love as we make tangible, not just in word or speech but in action, the love of God for all humanity
Action: God is love and truth and in Him we live and have our being. I choose today to be a good Christian by bearing good fruits and abiding in Christ. I surrender to God. And in surrendering to God I find my true self and become a true Christian with integrity of true discipleship in fruition of truth and action.
Prayer: Almighty Father, open our hearts to be in intimate union with You and that we be good Christians of integrity and always bear good fruits in action and truth to our neighbours as we abide in you with our hearts, we ask this through the Risen Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
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