Fifth Sunday of Easter
First reading: Acts 9:26-31
Responsorial Psalm: 22:26-28, 30-32
Second reading: 1 Jn 3:18-24
Gospel: Jn 15:1-8
By Kevin Perrotta
Our bundle of Scripture texts today communicates various calls to action.
“Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,” St. John counsels in the second reading. We should keep God’s commandments and “do what pleases him,” that is, “love one another just as he commanded us” (1 Jn 3:18-24).
Bear fruit, Jesus tells us, and warns that the Father “takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit” (Jn 15:2).
The psalmist invites us to share in his commitment to liturgical action, “I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people” (Ps 22:26).
And, challenging us to take action in the world, the first reading holds up the example of St. Paul, who “spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord” in city after city (Acts 9:28).
It would be easy to conclude that if we keep God’s commandments, have good results to show for our efforts, engage in vigorous prayer and make God known to other people, then we will be close to God and God will be close to us. But the logic of the readings is just the reverse.
John urges us to obey God’s law of love not so that we might have a relationship with God but so that we might be reassured that we are in a relationship with him. Loving in deed and truth “is how we shall know that we belong to the truth” (1 Jn 3:19).
Jesus declares that we can bear fruit only because we are already united with him, only by being branches of the vine that he is.
The psalmist offers thanks for what God has done for him.
And Paul didn’t become a bold proclaimer of Jesus because he wanted to gain a secure place among his disciples. Rather, Jesus revealed himself to Paul, after which Paul couldn’t stop talking about him.
The logic of the readings is to love, bear fruit, praise and testify not in order to get into a relationship with Jesus but in order to go on being in the relationship with him that he has given us.
Thus Jesus’ fundamental call to action: “Remain in me,” he says, “as I remain in you” (Jn 15:4).
“The way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us” (1 Jn 3:24).
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.