Sunday, 2 May 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we are called to renew our commitment and relationship with God, that our Christian faith should not be just superficial and empty, but instead must be strong and vibrant, based on true devotion and love for God. We must base our faith upon this deep love and commitment, a genuine relationship we ought to be building between us and God, or else, we may end up easily losing our faith especially during times of trials and difficulties.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostle, we heard of the beginning of the ministry of St. Paul when he was still using his original name of Saul, and preached in Jerusalem very shortly after his conversion in Damascus. As not long before that Saul had just encountered the Lord, Who called on him to turn away from his mistaken and erroneous path, and instead following Him and His guidance so that he may not lose his path and find the true joy in life in Christ.

St. Paul, then known as Saul, entrusted himself to the Lord and allowed Him to lead his path. His works in Jerusalem met particular challenges because the Christian populations there were rightly surprised, as the very same Saul had been the one most zealous and passionate in trying to destroy the Church and the Christian community, hunting down the ones who believed in Christ, and who was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, and Saul himself caused the untold suffering and martyrdom of others, in Jerusalem and other parts of Judea.

And then, he also certainly faced opposition and a lot of difficulties from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the chief priests and the members of the Sanhedrin. For St. Paul himself was a member of the Pharisees and once probably one of the most promising young member of the Pharisee, and had been guaranteed a great and prominent life among the members of the community, had it not been for his abrupt conversion and total change. Imagine the amazement and shock among those people seeing their supposed champion becoming the most ardent champion and defender of what they had tried so hard to stop and extinguish.

St. Paul did his best in everything he had done, in giving his life to the greater glory of God as the witness to the Lord and His truth, preaching the Good News and the words of the Gospel in the midst of many communities, to both the Jews and the Gentiles alike. He persevered on despite the many challenges he encountered, the numerous near death experiences and the sufferings he had to endure throughout his ministry. And all of this is because of his attachment to the Lord, how the Lord is at the centre and as the focus of his life and his entire work and ministry.

All that St. Paul had done, he did because of his great love and dedication to the Lord, and not for his own sake or glory. This is what the Lord spoke of in our Gospel passage today, when He used the parable of the Vine to explain how all those who believe in Him, all of His followers, have to remain attached to Him as the true Vine. That if we are the branches, then in order to remain living and vibrant, we have to be connected to the Vine, or the main stem, that is Our Lord, our foundation in life and the focus of our entire existence, around which all of our efforts and works should be centred on.

The Lord in another parable not mentioned in today’s Gospel also mentioned how the kingdom of God is like a great tree in which the birds of the air made their nests, with its enormous branches, all encompassing and bearing fruits and rich products. But without connection to the main stem, those branches will dry up and die, for it is the connection between the branches and the stem, and therefore to the rest of the plant that those branches prosper and grow wonderfully.

And another part of the same parable that we really ought to take note is as the Lord also mentioned how the grower and owner of the vineyard would trim the branches and remove those that have produced no fruits, so that those branches which do produce fruits may become even more fruitful. This is a reference to our Christian living and actions. If we do not live our lives as genuine and dedicated Christians, then we are like those barren and fruitless branches that will be trimmed away and thrown away into the fire.

What this means is that, as mentioned earlier, we have to follow the examples showed by St. Paul, the other Apostles and disciples, and all the saints and our holy predecessors who have shown us what it truly means to be Christians, as those who profess faith and belief in God. First of all, we have to put God as the centre and the focus of our lives, and we must show this in our every actions, words and deeds. And then, we must also be active and committed to God, that as said, in everything we do, we proclaim the truth of the Lord by our lives.

St. John in his Epistle, our second reading today, spoke of the commandments that God has entrusted to us, the commandments of love that He has revealed before us and which as Christians, we are all expected and obliged to follow and fulfil. We ought to live our lives in a true Christian way, loving God with all of our hearts and putting Him as the centre of our existence, and at the same time, also loving our fellow brothers and sisters with the same love as well. By that love and by our faith then everyone will know that truly we are Christians, those whom God has chosen and called.

And that is how we bear fruits, brothers and sisters, by being good role models for one another and by inspiring all those around us, whether they believe in the Lord or not, that through us and our dedication, many may come to believe in the Lord as well, just as many turned to the Christian faith by the efforts made by St. Paul, his fellow Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord who laboured hard in preaching the Good News and the Gospels to them. That is how we evangelise brothers and sisters, through our lives, and through our sincere and genuine actions, and not only through words, as St. Francis of Assisi famously said, ‘When necessary, use words’.

That is why today we ought to reexamine our way of living our lives. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord, and have we been exemplary in our Christian living? Or have we instead been idle or even ignorant of what we all need to do as Christians even in the smallest things? Do we also realise that if we are not living our faith they way we should, or worse still, live in ways contrary to our faith, we are scandalising the faith and not only that, but the Lord Himself? Many scandals had hurt the Church because of the actions of the members of the Church that do not conform to what the Lord has been calling us to do.

That is why this Sunday, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, and as time continue to move on, we should spend the time to reexamine our lives and discern carefully on what we all should be doing to be a better role model and inspiration for one another, to be a better Christian and a more dedicated follower of God, not just in name only, but also through our real actions and commitments in life. No one is perfect, and we all have made mistakes and disobeyed the Lord at some point of time in our lives, but we should not continue making the same mistakes and continue in living our lives in disobedience against God.

Instead, God has called us to repent and to change our lives for the better, and He has given us so many opportunities to do so, and better still, as I have elaborated plenty earlier on, there are so many good role models in faith that we can follow, from St. Paul the Apostle, all the saints and holy martyrs of God, and even our own bishops and priests who have exemplified the values and virtues of a true Christian. The question is, are we willing to follow the Lord wholeheartedly as they had done, and be fruitful in our lives, in bearing the good fruits of faith, that our faith is not just empty and meaningless, but rather one that is truly active and vibrant?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are then worried or thinking that we cannot do wonderful and great things in living up to our Christian faith and calling, then we must realise that what matters is all the small, little actions we do each day, in our own communities, and even within our own families and circle of friends. We have to do whatever we can, in our own abilities and capacity to serve the Lord with faith, to be good examples for others that we may not only keep one another in faith but also lead even more souls to the salvation in the Lord.

Let us all today make a resolution to move forward in life from now on, committing ourselves to the Lord with a new faith and with renewed zeal and love for Him. Let us all, in our own little contributions, do our best to glorify the Lord and to proclaim His truth in our community. Let us be true disciples of the Lord from now on, not just merely a formality or in name only, but also in true deeds and work, through our tireless efforts and outreach, to our fellow men, from our own family members and circle of friends, and also to all those whom we meet and encounter in life daily.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen us in faith, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him, and may always be courageous and inspired to glorify His Name daily. May He empower us all through His Holy Spirit, that we may indeed bear rich and wonderful fruits of faith, and remain ever firmly attached to Him, Our true Vine and the Source of our life and all truth. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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