“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
Last Sunday, we asked ourselves: “As a branch, am I still connected to Jesus, the Vine?” We saw that without Jesus, we are nothing. We also pointed out three key elements of abiding in Jesus as branches of the vine; one, abiding in His Word, two, loving our neighbours as ourselves and three, obeying His commandments.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus tells us that it is not enough for us to be connected to the vine, we must be fruitful branches; we must bear fruits and our fruits must last. “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” (John 15:16).
What does it mean to bear fruits? It is replicating ourselves, winning converts to the Christian faith and leading unbelievers to baptism. This is our mission as branches and we would be failures if we do not bear fruits. More still, Jesus is not simply asking us to bring more people in, He says our fruits must last. It is not all about number, quality is important.
So, how do we win quality souls for God’s kingdom? Our three readings today speak in favour of love; loving without discrimination, loving our enemies and loving others just as Jesus loved us.
1. Love without Discrimination
In today’s first reading, we see Peter, a branch of Christ (and the leader of the entire Christian movement) at the house of Cornelius, a gentile. For agreeing to go to the house of Cornelius, Peter opened the door for millions of Non-Jews and God confirmed this by pouring forth the Holy Spirit upon a people who were not even circumcised.
What does this teach us? Learn to see God in others, especially strangers, outsiders, outcasts. The way to love people is to recognise God in everyone. Our Psalmist today sings: “God as shown deliverance to the nations.” When we see others as fellow children of God, we become committed to converting them to faith. We cannot bear fruits with hatred, discrimination and divisiveness in our hearts.
Never look down on anyone. Peter said to Cornelius, “truly I perceive that God shows no partiality…” If God shows no partiality, we would be betraying our status as God’s children when we begin to show partiality; when we begin to judge others based on the colour of their skin.
2. Love Your Enemies.
St. John clearly explains to us in our second reading today the true meaning of love saying: “This is Love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.” (1st John 4:10).
Love is sacrifice; it is not trade by barter; it is giving even when it hurts not just to your friends but most especially to those who hate you. This is Love. Humanity as a whole was at enmity with God yet God so loved the world and He sent His only Son Jesus to die for us. (John 3:16).
Jesus asked: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46) To love your enemies is to forgive just like Christ did on the Cross of Calvary. A heart that cannot forgive is a heart that has not yet encountered Christ. Do not wish evil for anyone no matter what they have done to you. St. John tells us today: “He who does not love does not know God.”
3. Love as Christ Loved Us.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). The key to bearing fruits (winning souls for God) is incarnating Christ, that is to say: giving flesh Jesus whom we read about in the Bible.
To incarnate Jesus is to make Jesus come alive through our actions, behaving in the manner that Christ would do if he was right here today and this entails, making sacrifice for others, being willing to die for the sake of others. Jesus said: “Greater love has no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).
If we are not willing to sacrifice for others like Christ did, we become like marketers trying to sell a product they have never used. Our talking becomes mere empty phrases and we are not able to convince anyone.
In his humility, Peter did not allow Cornelius to worship him. He said: “Stand up; I too am a man.” This is characteristic of Jesus Christ who would refrain those He healed from publicising it.
Conclusion: Have I Been a Fruitful Branch?
The question that should be on our minds as we go home today is: “how many souls have I won for God’s kingdom?” or better put, “how many persons have I, through the power of God brought out of darkness to light?” How many persons have I brought to repentance, and if any, do I still care for them? Have I brought them to the church for baptism? Dear friends, we cannot be branches for nothing! If we don’t bear fruits through love, we just like that fig tree that was covered with leaves but there was no fruit on it and guess what happened? Jesus cursed it. (Mark 11:13-22). May this never become our portion in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to love just as you did that in loving, I may truly bear fruits for you. Amen.
6th Sunday of Easter, Year B. Bible Study: Acts 10:25-48, 1 John 4:7-10 and John 15:9-17