Easter - Fifth Sunday -B- 2018
Acts 9: 26-31
1 John 3: 18-24
John 15: 1-8.
The Jesus Movement was still in its infancy when one Christian called another a 'heretic'.
Our Acts passage tells us that the followers of Jesus were confused over what to believe or to whom to listen. That is evident when Paul, shortly after his conversion, arrived in Jerusalem. How do we know that he is really a disciple of Jesus? Is his road-to-Damascus story true? Is it all a ruse to try and get us to come out of the closet and expose ourselves to persecution? Especially, do we have to buy into his theology that Gentiles can become Christians without first becoming Jews? Was Paul a heretic? Eventually the Jerusalem community reached the conclusion that Paul was simply too hot to handle. They shipped him off to his hometown of Tarsus, and the community found some peace.
It must have been quite painful for this newly appointed Apostle to the Gentiles to be sent far away from the action. But thankfully he retained his relationship with the Risen Christ in the middle of this pruning, otherwise he would not have been ready when the institution eventually discovered how badly it needed him. And there we owe so much to Barnabas who continually vouched for him. From the reading from 1 John, we see that the importance with the Risen Lord is so important. The author of the book reminds us that we do not keep God's commandments simply in order to get into heaven. Rather it is the one sure way of staying connected to the Risen Christ: "Those who keep God's commandments remain in him, and he in them,and he way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us". Christians are far less concerned with 'word and speech' than they are with 'deed and truth'.
Actions speak louder than words. if you and I are a life-giving force in our community, then we are getting that life and love from our connection with Jesus, and not from any particular theology. That connection with Jesus isn't just a once in a life time experience. Like all relationships it either grows or dies. That is why our deeds and the truth are essential. Though the institutional church is important, many of us seem to forget why it exists. Its main mission is to help us build that vital relationship with the Risen Lord and not with itself. Indeed ,unless we keep reminding ourselves - and the institutional church - of that mission, it could so easily become an obstacle and not a means to achieving that goal
All institutions which claim to be Christian, must constantly go back to Jesus. We might be embarrassed by what we find when we do so, but it is the only way to be certain we are doing what Jesus wants us to do It was the call/ command of the Old testament prophets - "return to Yahweh". Our modern prophets, following the example of Vatican 11, are likewise calling/ commanding - "return to Jesus".