Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we have heard the words from the Sacred Scriptures, telling us about the conflict that arose during the earliest days of the Church, between those who continued to keep strictly the commandments and laws of Moses, namely those who belonged to the Pharisees who came to believe in Jesus, and those who advocated the relaxing of certain laws and customs that are not truly essential for one to become a Christian.
In order to understand this, we have to understand the context of the difficulty and the dilemma facing the Church fathers and the Apostles at that time. The Jewish people at the time living in Judea and the other parts of the Roman Empire had a distinct custom among the people they lived with, most distinctive of all being the practice of circumcision, which the Gentiles, the Romans and the Greeks included found to be repulsive and disgusting.
Not withholding the ancient practice of strict food laws and prohibitions, which made the Jewish people and their faith to be a relatively exclusive one, as it was difficult for people, if not almost impossible for anyone to adopt the customs and the practices of the Jews, as the laws of Moses prescribed. However, the early Church fathers found the wisdom to overcome this issue, by seeking to relax the strict requirements of the Jewish customs on the early Christian communities.
How do all these link to the Gospel passage which we have heard? In the Gospel today, we heard Jesus our Lord Who spoke of Himself as the True Vine, from which all those who believe in the Lord draw life from, as they are the branches of the True Vine. If they are sundered from the Vine, they shall have no part in Him, and they shall have no life because they have been separated from His love.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is in fact a reminder to all of us Christians, that we cannot be like those Pharisees who chose to be Christians, and tried to impose their human made laws and customs, the laws of Moses, which they held to be sacred and perfect, on the other newly converted Christians, those from among the Gentiles, who find the practices of the Jews to be repulsive and difficult to be followed.
The laws of Moses were originally given from God for His people, at the time when they went out of Egypt, in order to lead them and guide them on their path. But the laws were first of all very harsh because of a very good reason, and that is because the Israelites themselves were very rebellious and were very easily seduced by the sinful ways of the world. As a result, God gave them the set of precepts and laws in order to restrain them.
And over time, the laws that God gave to His people had become twisted and modified beyond the original purpose He gave them for. The laws became set of human laws, customs and practices, which the leaders of the people, the elders and the chief priests constantly modified in order to suit their own needs, purposes and even wishes.
As a result, the Law became increasingly and unnecessarily draconian and harsh in nature. And that became a great obstacle for many people to become Christians, and which the Church fathers later on then decided to rescind, the unnecessary requirements and excesses of the old laws, simply because, as mentioned, all these things are human adjustments and additions, that came not from God but from men.
The people of God gained justification and life from the Lord, and they have received life from Him, the True Vine. It is why the Apostles and the Church fathers argued and successfully managed to allow the Christians and their communities to follow and obey only what the Lord had truly commanded them, as Jesus Himself said, that the Law is really only about two things, that is to love and serve the Lord our God with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our being, and then to love our fellow brethren just as much as we love God and ourselves.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember this even today, as this is still perfectly applicable now and even later in the future. We have to love God with all of our heart, mind and soul, and we have to love our fellow brethren as best as we are able to do so. This is the commandments of the Lord, one that we need to listen to and obey, all of our lives, from now on if we have not done so.
May the Lord bless us all and may He be with us always, at all times, so that in everything we say, in everything we do, we will always show our love for Him, and also for our fellow men, that we will always be forever righteous and just in His presence, and worthy of His everlasting life. Amen.