02 May 2015


5th Sunday of Easter
Jn 15:1-8 (Acts 9:26-31 / Ps 22 / 1 Jn 3:18-24)

Do you remember when Jesus approached a fig tree, searching for fruits, but found none? Mk 11:12-14 tells us that, Jesus is so disappointed with the tree that He curses it and it withers.

How about Lk 13:6-9?  Jesus tells the story of a landowner who, also searching for fruits from his fig tree but finding none, orders his servant to cut down the tree.  But the servant pleads with him to give the tree one more year while he digs around it and fertilizes it.  “If it bears fruit next year, fine!” the servant says.  “If not, then cut it down.”

Very clearly, bearing fruit is never optional to Jesus.  He expects His disciples to be fruitful.  Ang gusto po ni Jesus ay bunga hindi bongga.  Hindi po ang mabo-bongga nating gawa ang nagbibigay-luwalhati sa Ama, sabi ni Jesus, kundi ang mabunga nating pagsisikap.  “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit…,” Jesus reminds us in the Gospel today.  Tayo po ba ay mga alagad na mabunga o mga mabonggang alagad lang?  At kung tayo nga po ay mabungang alagad, ano naman po ang ating ibinubunga?  Ang ibinubunga po ba ng ating pagiging alagad ni Jesus ay talagang kalugud-lugod sa Diyos at nakapagpapala sa ating kapwa?  Baka naman po panay burloloy lang tayo, puro kwitis, tadtad ng kolorete hindi lang ang mukha kundi pati ang pananampalataya.  Baka po wala tayong bungang maipakita sa Panginoon.  Naku, baka tayo masumpa!  Baka tayo maputol!  Baka tayo ipanggatong!

Discipleship is a serious business indeed!  Discipleship is bearing fruits.  I am a disciple of Jesus not only for my own sake, for my own good, and for my own salvation.  Neither are you.  Following Jesus challenges us to produce fruits which He checks in us, picks from us, and uses through us.  And what are the fruits that Jesus searches in us, expects from us, and even demands from us?  Many.  But the First Reading today gives us one among the important.

The section we read from the Acts of the Apostles today tells us how Saul, who after his conversion became Paul, was introduced to the disciples in Jerusalem and eventually accepted by the apostles as one of them.  But we often overlook someone who without his help Paul might have not been welcomed, much less trusted, by the early Christian community.  The Reading says, “Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and reported to them how he had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”  In a word, Barnabas was Paul’s guarantor.  It was because Barnabas testified to Paul’s conversion and faith in Jesus that the apostles and the Christian community in Jerusalem received Paul who was otherwise their most dreaded persecutor.  And even when Paul himself was being persecuted – for the Hellenist tried to kill him, says the First Reading – the believers themselves found a way to keep him safe by taking him to Caesarea then sending him to Tarsus.  We may wonder, “What if there was no Barnabas for Paul?”  Without Barnabas, Paul would still be a believer but would he be “Paul the Apostle”?  Barnabas played a key role for the Christian community in Jerusalem to overcome their suspicion on Paul’s authenticity.

How edifying if we can always be a Barnabas to one another.  Let us lend a helping hand to those who struggle to rise from their sinful past.  Let us build up one another instead of tearing each other down.  Let us be bridges of communion rather than walls of division.  If we do so, then, our love, as the Apostle John exhorts us in the Second Reading, is “not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

Many people think that when they receive Holy Communion they receive only Jesus.  But come to think of it, we are members of Christ’s Body, are we not?  Saying “amen” to the Body of Christ is accepting Christ Himself and all those who belong to His Body.  Receiving Jesus in Holy Communion is welcoming Jesus Himself and all those who are in communion with Him.  The Eucharistic Lord is our “common union”.  Whoever receives Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is intimately united to Jesus and to each and every one who receive Him.  Sa Banal na Komunyon, tinatanggap po natin hindi lamang si Jesus kundi ang lahat ng kabilang sa Kanya.  Hindi po puwedeng si Jesus lang ang tatanggapin natin.  Sa ayaw man nati’t sa gusto, dapat nating tanggapin ang lahat.  Kaya, paano po magiging wagas ang ating pagtanggap sa Panginoon sa Banal na Komunyon, kung merong taong ayaw nating tanggapin, kausapin, pakinggan, o ni makita man lamang?

The Holy Mass does not only bring us together; It binds us to one another, infused with the very life of Jesus Himself who is the Head whose Body we are.  In his final Apostolic Letter, “Mane Nobiscum Domine”, St. John Paul II underlines the truth that the Holy Eucharist presupposes our already existing unity even as it nourishes it.  Kaya nga po bago tayo mangumunyon, nagbibigayan tayo ng kapayapaan sa isa’t isa.  Tutoo naman kaya ang kapayapaang iyan?  Sana naman po, hindi plastic.

Let us remain in Jesus as branches to the vine, but let us always remember that the vine keeps the branches together as one organic being.  A branch that separates itself from the other branches separates itself from the vine as well.  Kapag ayaw po nating makisama, makiisa, maki-ugnay, at makipamuhay sa ibang mga sangang naka-ugnay kay Kristo, hindi lamang tayo nahihiwalay sa ating kapwa-tao, napuputol din po ang ating kaugnayan kay Jesus sapagkat hindi tayo maaaring manatiling kaugnay Niya nang hindi tayo mananatiling kaugnay ng iba.

Paul was Barnabas’ fruit for Jesus.  And what a priceless fruit Paul is for the Church!  We have come to see Jesus more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly because of Paul’s teachings and personal witnessing.

Incidentally, when Barnabas was sent to preach the Gospel and shepherd the Church in Antioch, he took Paul with him.  And it was in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

As the Easter Season is in its final two weeks, it will do us well to examine our selves for the fruits of our faith in the Risen Lord.  How are we as His disciples?  Do we remain in Jesus?  How are we as His Church?  Have we become more welcoming and do we build up people?  How are we as the branches of Him who is the true Vine?  Do we need some pruning so that we may bear more fruit?  Even long after the Easter Season ends, we should be restless until the faith we so heartrendingly profess bears the fruits it should produce.


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