Sunday Sermon for April 29, 2018, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Sunday Sermon for April 29, 2018, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Readings: Acts 9:26-31; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8

In the second reading today St. John tells us we are to love in deed and truth as opposed to word and speech. In other words, it is fairly easy to talk about charity, but to practice it is a far more difficult endeavor. However, on the Day of Judgment we are not going to be reward for our eloquent waxing on the topic of love, but we will be rewarded for our truly loving actions and we will have to answer for the times we failed to act in love.

The first point that pops off the page today is when Saul arrived in Jerusalem and tried to join the disciples, they were all afraid of him and did not believe him when he told them he had converted and was now a disciple of the Lord. Thankfully, Barnabas was there to take Saul under his wing and introduce him to the Apostles. After hearing his story they may still have been a bit skeptical, but they obviously allowed Saul into their company and he went about Jerusalem proclaiming the Name of Jesus.

We are not given a time frame in the first reading, but the rest of the community clearly began to trust that Saul’s conversion was real because he did not back down when threatened by the Hellenists and the disciples let him down over the city wall in a basket; they then took him to the port in Caesarea and sent him to Tarsus where he would be safe. These later actions of the early Christians toward Saul were certainly charitable, but what about the initial reticence of these same people? Were those actions charitable?

On the surface it definitely appears uncharitable because someone wanted to join them and they refused. However, we need to make a couple of distinctions. First of all, it was prudent on the part of the Christians. They were being persecuted and knew Saul had been the leader of the persecutions in Jerusalem and later in Damascus. The idea that someone would feign a conversion in order to infiltrate the community and learn who was in this clandestine group so as to arrest them is not outlandish.

Secondly, one has to be reasonably certain a person will fit into the corporate personality of the group to which they seek entrance. The Church does this on the broadest of scales to ensure the person believes and understands what the Church teaches and practices before the person is received into the Church. But on a smaller level, for example, a community of nuns or monks, has to discern whether the person seeking entrance has a similar spirituality, has a personality that will not be disruptive to the community, and it the individual has a vocation to their community.

A person who is desiring marriage has to do the same thing, but on an even smaller scale. Just because someone proposes does not automatically imply the other person thinks this is the right person to marry. Long before a proposal is made both individuals need to ask the questions that will help them discern if this is the right person to marry. If the discernment concludes negatively, it is an act of charity to break off the relationship or turn down the proposal. This is because the person is convinced the relationship would not be the best for both of them.

So, what might appear to be uncharitable in each of these situations is really just the opposite. The person who is not accepted by a community or whose marriage proposal is rejected may not agree this was the best outcome, but hopefully with time they will be able to see things from the other perspective. I am certain St. Paul, as he looked back at his first months as a Christian was able to understand why the Christians in Jerusalem were reluctant to believe his conversion story and welcome him into the community.

For most of us, we have been in the Church a long time and, hopefully, we have discerned our vocation and have been living it for a while. That being the case, our task is now to grow in love with and act in love toward the Lord and the people He sends into our lives. Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that we are to remain in Him and bear much fruit as His disciples. This means keeping our Lord’s commandments and always doing what pleases Him. By developing our prayer life, we can know our Lord, love Him and do His will by striving to act according to what is best for the other person. Only by remaining on the true Vine can we love in deed and in truth and bear fruit that will glorify God!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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