April 29 – Living Branches

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April 29 – Living Branches

The Gospel and second reading for this Fifth Sunday of Easter emphasize the need for us to remain in Christ, and he in us. This shared life finds expression in the image of the one vine and many branches. We become living branches of th vine, members of the Body of Christ through baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation, sacraments of sharing God’s own life. The First Letter of John describes the fruit of this vine as active love of neighbor: “And his commandment is this: we should believe . . . and love one another” (1 John 3:23). Our first reading from Acts shows us an example of someone who shares in Christ’s life in the person of Saint Paul. Paul’s fearless witness, even at the risk of his life, is proof to everyone that the risen Lord’s Spirit truly fills him with life and is bearing fruit in him.

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Some city teenagers often scorn and reject farm kids. Yet it’s no exaggeration to say that humanity owes its life to farmers who care for the world’s crops and livestock. This week’s scriptures remind us that Jesus was as rejected as a shepherd, a farm boy, yet we owe our very lives to him. In this Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles Peter tells the people that salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the one who was rejected. In John’s letter we hear that we have become God’s beloved children through Jesus, whom the world did not know. Lastly, in the Gospel Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Will you join Jesus in laying down your life for God’s beloved flock?

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Throughout the Easter season, all three of the Sundaybvreadings are taken from the New Testament—the Christian scriptures. Together they explore what it means to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the One who fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish scriptures. Today’s selections refer to our human weakness, yet they emphasize the forgiveness and peace that are available to those who put their faith in “Jesus Christ the righteous one” (1 John 2:2). In the Acts of the Apostles Peter invites everyone to “repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19). The First Letter of John calls Jesus Christ “expiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). Finally, in the Gospel Jesus greets the disciples with “Peace” and urges them to preach “repentance, for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47).

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April 8 – So That You May Believe

It is not often that the author of one of the books of the Bible comes right out and tells us directly why he is writing what he is writing. In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, taken from the conclusion of John’s Gospel, the author tells us that he has chosen to record these events so “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name” (20:31). The letter of John echoes this idea by saying that “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God” (5:1)—what we might refer to as being “born again.” Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles for this Second Sunday of Easter shows us exactly what it looks like when believers are born again through faith.

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