Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31
Paul is accepted by the apostles at Jerusalem.
The whole world shall praise the Lord.
1 John 3:18-24
God commands us to believe in Jesus Christ and to love one another.
Jesus teaches that he is the vine and that his disciples are the branches.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is part of Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper. Recall that John tells the story of Jesus’ Last Supper differently from the other Evangelists. In John’s Gospel, the Last Supper begins with Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Jesus then provides them with a series of instructions. We call this section the Last Supper discourse or Jesus’ farewell discourse. In these chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples about the importance of following his example of love and service, about the gift they will receive when Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit, and about their relationship with Jesus and with the world. The Last Supper discourse concludes with Jesus’ prayer for his disciples.
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from middle of the Last Supper discourse. Jesus speaks about his relationship to his disciples. In his metaphor of the vine and the branches, Jesus is referencing the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is the vineyard, and Yahweh himself tends the vineyard. One of the primary themes of John’s Gospel is to show Jesus to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.
In this passage, Jesus teaches his disciples that his relationship with them will not end after his death; he will remain with them always. This unity between Jesus and his disciples is the basis for their ability to continue to do the work that he began. Similarly, Jesus’ presence with us through the Gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to continue the work of love and reconciliation that he began.
Jesus also teaches his disciples about the importance of the words he has taught to them. Just as Jesus will remain in the disciples, so too will his words. We come to know Jesus through the Scriptures, the living Word of God. Our commitment to be Christ’s disciples is sustained through God’s Word. This commitment is also strengthened by our life of prayer and nourished by the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, Jesus dwells in us, remains with us, and transforms us so that we might bear fruit in his name.
We observe many people who act in ways that show their commitment to serve their neighbor. Christians and non-Christians feed the hungry, care for the sick, shelter the homeless, and give alms to the poor. These actions become acts of Christian discipleship when they are motivated by our relationship with Jesus. Whatever the immediate results, Jesus promises us that these actions will bear fruit when we undertake them in his name.