Embrace the Good Word
A lot hinges on a few words in today’s readings. In John’s Gospel we hear the words ‘abide in me’ or ‘live in’ me. Abiding in Jesus and Jesus abiding in us will enable us to produce fruit abundantly. If we live in Christ and his words live in us, we may ask what we desire and it will be done.
When Jesus met the two disciples of John the Baptist who became his first followers he invites them to come and abide with him. Jesus tells us that he goes to prepare a place for us so that where he is we also may be. After the Resurrection when Jesus meets Mary at the empty tomb he will say to her, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God!"
Our abiding in Jesus is more than a physical presence. It is the completion of Jesus’ work to lead us to intimacy with the Father. To abide is a positive, comfortable word that conjures up feelings of security and peace. The vine and branch share life, the branch bears fruit through Jesus and gives the Father glory in the bearing of that fruit.
The Acts of the Apostles gives us some negatives words. There came to Antioch those whose teaching said, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved." Their words sowed dissension and controversy. And converted Pharisees ‘demanded’ the Gentiles follow the Mosaic Law. What follows has been called the Council of Jerusalem, the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem gathering with Paul and Barnabas to look into this matter. The wonderful events that have taken place among the gentiles are shared and Peter says that the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles shows God’s approval. Acts will tell us, "the decision of the Holy Spirit, and ours too…" is that that the Gentiles not be so heavily bound.
We hear the invitation to abide as branches upon the Vine in the richness of the Resurrection. But even as we celebrate the Risen Lord there can be such words as ‘unless’, ‘cannot’, and ‘demands’ that can do harm. We who abide with the Lord can ask for what we need.
And the Holy Spirit who guided the new Church to what seemed the impossible union of Jew and Gentile as one at the table is our Advocate, Guide, and the one who can bend what is rigid and melt what is frozen.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, Maryland.