Acts 15:22-31; Psalm 57; John 15:12-17
The Gospel today repeats some parts of yesterday’s Gospel because yesterday’s reading was assigned as reading for the feast of St Matthias. In any case, despite the same reading, we can get different insights from it, proof that the Scripture is alive.
Jesus said in today’s Gospel You did not choose me but I choose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. There is this concept of choosing. God calls everyone. Not everyone responds. Those who respond, God chooses. This choosing is God’s own choice. Even if we have responded, it is still God’s decision to choose us. The question is: choose us for what. This is what I think Jesus means. He chooses us for a specific purpose. You and I are created for a specific purpose in life. This is why since the beginning of time to the end of time, there will never be another you or me, because God has planned in his wisdom, a specific purpose for each of us. Everyone is chosen to a married life. But out of everyone, some are chosen for priesthood, not because they are better human beings, but because that is God’s purpose for them. Everyone is unique and God created us to be different from others, so we can love in our own special way.
Jesus said this choosing has a purpose: that we go and bear fruit that will last. We are not only to bear fruit, but fruit that will last, for eternity. Our goal is not to have many people in church. Our goal is to proclaim Christ, so that those who hear and turn to God by his grace, will proclaim Christ and convert people by God’s grace. We are called to bear fruit that will last, not to sit and do nothing with our faith. This does not mean we just go out and do something for the sake of doing it. The purpose must be to let people know about Jesus and his mercy and call people to Christ. Many Catholics have the idea that the goal of our faith is to serve others. Jesus said our goal in life is to bear fruit that will last, through eternal life. And serving others is a means to lead others to Christ by reflecting the love of Christ in our service. This is what differentiates us from NGO’s. Our purpose in life is not just service. It is to lead others to Christ so they may have eternal life.
And the First Reading shows us how this could cause confusion and conflict. Obviously, those who taught that circumcision is required for salvation have good intentions. But the Apostles and elders (presbyters) did not think so. Their letter was very clear, those who taught this did this on their own initiative. This has disturbed you and have unsettled your minds. The Apostles and elders sent Barnabas and Paul to prove the decision of the council. And more importantly, they sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. This proves the teaching of the Apostles is not only proclaimed by Scripture, but by those who had been sent under the authority of the Apostles. The Christians at that time held on to this decision because of people sent by the Apostles. There was no New Testament written at that point!
So when we serve others, we need to remember that our ministry MUST be grounded on the teaching of the Church. There are many “charitable” institutions that go against the teaching of the Church. Many people donate tons of money to institutions that support abortion, euthanasia and lobby for promiscuous lifestyle. These works do not bear fruit that will last. Many Catholic teachers and preachers water down the Gospel message so as not to offend. Many preach a gospel of prosperity which gives false hopes to listeners, twisting what Jesus said in the Gospel today: the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name, guaranteeing that everything they ask will be given without exception, while forgetting the most important part in that promise: ask in my name. God will give us all we ask, if we ask them as Jesus will ask, not just by ending our prayer in Jesus’ name.
The Gospel message today is: God has chosen us for a specific purpose in life: to bear fruit that will last. If we want more in life, if we feel there is no more meaning in life, if we are tired and losing hope, come to Jesus and ask him to help you know him so you can bear much fruit that will last. It does not matter what you have done or not done before. What matters is you come to Jesus and ask him to change your heart and your eyes, so you can see Jesus clearly. This is the prayer that God answers because it is one that Jesus wants us to pray.
Lord, I come to you, wanting more in my life, looking for meaning in my life. I am tired of chasing my dreams. I am afraid of what the future holds. Yet Lord, you have appointed me for this time, to bear much fruit that will last. Show me how my life can fulfill this call. Reveal to me what you have chosen me to do, why you let me live at this time and place. Be my strength to fulfill this call. Forgive my sins, my weaknesses, my faults, my guilt, my shame. Heal me Jesus. Make me new, so I can bear much fruit that will last, for the glory of your name.