May 3, 2015 - Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 9;26 - 31
In a few weeks we will be celebrating Pentecost and marking the end of the Easter Liturgical Season.
Usually at Pentecost we focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how we can draw upon these gifts to
help us to be better followers of Christ. When I look at the Gospel for this weekend I notice how the
phrase "bear fruit" is mentioned four times, Gospel. In the letter to the Galatians twelve fruits are
listed: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty,
self-control, chastity. Bearing fruit is a beautifully descriptive image used by Jesus, Paul and the Church
to describe the effect of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in one's life.
1 John 3: 18 - 24
Gospel - Luke 24; 35 - 48
In the readings three Fruits of the Holy Spirit stand out, Peace, Love (Charity) and Joy. While these three fruits have been trivialized and placed on felt banners, poster and buttons over the past fifty years, this does not take away from the reality that they are Fruits than result from allowing the Holy Spirit to work within our lives. Nor do the trite expressions diminish our call to live our lives in a way that we do bear these fruits.
The reading from Acts describes the Church after the persecutions began. Saul was one of those who zealously tried to put down the spread of Christianity, as did the Romans. It is somewhat ironic that Paul who was one of the leading persecutors of Christianity, after his conversion experiences becomes one of the leading Missionaries, only to find himself arrested, imprisoned and ultimately executed because of his faith in Jesus. After his conversion the Christian community was hesitant, if not fearful, to accept Saul, now known as Paul.
Yet in the midst of their initial suspicion of Paul and of the persecutions we are told in Acts that there was peace in the Church. This is because it was being built on the fear of the Lord, and the consolation of the Holy Spirit. It is a lesson that reminds us that for the followers of Jesus true peace is not necessarily the absence of outside persecution or internal conflict, it is walking in the fear of the Lord, and calling upon the Holy Spirit to console us in the midst of our sufferings. When this peace becomes part of our lives and flows out of us, then we are bearing the fruit of the Peace of the Holy Spirit. It is a peace that gives us courage to continue to walk in our faith even trusting those, like Paul, who we might look at with suspicion.
In the Gospel and letters of John he speaks often of love. It is not the love of the wishy-washy, it is the love that comes from our realizing that It is God who first loved us. A love formed on integrity and sacrifice. It can even be painful, because it beautifully reflects the ultimate act of love, the death of Jesus. We bear this fruit when we begin to let go of ourselves; attitudes of selfishness and possessiveness not only in the material, but also in our hearts and minds.
The final fruit from these readings is Joy. This is not a fleeting moment of happiness, but rather a deep seated sense that all will be well. It is an inner disposition that can be seen and felt by those around us, even when we might be experiencing some turmoil or crises in our lives. This fruit of Joy closely follows the presence of Peace and Love in our lives.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.