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Easter 5th Week, Wednesday, May 13th

Acts 15:1-6 / John 15:1-6 
Jesus talks about being one with him: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

Paul Claudel’s play The Satin Slipper opens with a dramatic scene: a shipwreck at sea. The sole survivor is a missionary who has tied himself to the mainmast. As it pitches and tosses on the great waves, the missionary senses that death is near. So he prays in words like these: “0 Lord, I thank you for letting me die like this. Sometimes I found your teaching hard, and sometimes I fought your will. But now I could not be bound more closely to you. Most of us are honest people cannot free itself from this cross on which I die. Nor would I want it to be free, for it makes me feel a special closeness to you.”

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How closely are we united to Christ? “By his union with us, he is the Son of Man; by our union with him, we are sons of God.” St. Augustine
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Most of us are honest people and we believe in the integrity of the truth. Yet we also cannot dismiss the fact that we come from a specific cultural and social background and our understanding of the truth can be heavily influenced by this background.

So when truth is mixed with a certain personal cultural background, it may be as difficult as trying to separate the wheat from the weeds. But as in the wisdom of the parable of the wheat and weeds, the time will come when they will be slowly separated.

In the 1st reading, we can see how truth is mixed with personal cultural and social backgrounds, or half-truths if we wish to use that word. The issue is not just about circumcision but rather the heavy underlying religious background of the Jewish converts, because they believed that Christianity should include some of the fundamental Jewish religious practices, and one of which is circumcision.

It even became a criterion for salvation, so much so that the apostles and elders had to look into the matter.

Yet as Jesus talked about Him being the vine and we the branches in the gospel, He also talked about pruning.

Yes, in order to be truly in union with Jesus and to understand His truth, we need to be pruned of the half-truths and the other influences that distort the truth. Jesus is the Truth. And the truth of salvation is that He loves us and wants to save us from sin and damnation.

Let us understand the essence of this fundamental truth and to bear the fruits of truth and salvation.
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Wednesday of 5th Week of Easter - Liturgy

ONE IN THE TRUE VINE - FACTIONS IN THE CHURCH

Introduction
Implanted by baptism in Christ, the true vine, and therefore, by vocation and by our being Christians, we are called to be one in him, however we often fall apart into factions because of our background of land and culture, regionalisms and differences of language, social origins and classes, conservatives against progressives. So it was in the early Church: Christians discriminated because of their pagan origins, different parties even among those of Jewish extraction. Are we any better? No wonder that we bear little fruit… Let the Lord prune and purify us and unite us all in Christ as branches on the same vine.

Penitential rite
-As we face dissensions and disputes in our life in common, and like the early Christians, we seek discernment in faith and fellowship, LHM
-As we face conflicts and discords in our faith and vocation, and like the early Christians, we seek solution in the Lord with trust, CHM
-As we face challenges and oppositions in our ministry, and as early Christians, we seek resolutions in dialogue and cooperation, LHM

Opening Prayer
Lord our God, loving Father, you have given us your Son, Jesus Christ, as the true vine of life and our source of strength. Help us to live his life as living branches attached to the vine, and to bear plenty of fruits of justice, goodness and love. Let our union with him become visible in our openness to one another and in our unity as brothers and sisters, that he may be visibly present among us, now and for ever.

Commentary
Paul respected Jewish tradition as part of his own heritage. Nonetheless, his Christian belief saw no place for circumcision as necessary for salvation. Such a position would fly in the face of the all-sufficient saving work of Christ. When Jewish Christians came to Antioch from Judea, urging circumcision, Paul saw at once the moral conflict that their demand made. It was then decided to bring the matter to the attention of the Jerusalem authorities in order to seek a definitive solution. Paul’s perspective is characterized by collegiality. Where opinions conflict, the effort must be expended to arrive at a consensual solution. Paul has no intention of being a “lone ranger” in the matter. He wants to hear the voice of the church and so makes his way to Jerusalem as the emissary of a developing church.
There is only one avenue of salvation: adherence to Christ. Just as the branch only lives when united with the vine, so too the Christian must be one with Christ. There is no independent way of bearing fruit. Christ stands as our life and our greatest benefactor.
The door to life is opened in baptism, not circumcision. In being called to do good, it is Christ who enables us. In walking away from sin and remaining on the path of virtue, it is because we are one with the vine. There are many devotions in the church; in their variety they satisfy many spiritual needs. But they are to be seen as ways to express gratitude for the gift that is ours, not as stepping stones to holiness.  The psalmist says it well today. We make our way to Jerusalem so we can give thanks to the Lord.   

Points to Ponder    Christ alone as the center of faith 
Living as a branch on the vine 
Salvation, the gift of a gracious God 
Governing through consensus   

Intercessions   
– Lord Jesus, keep your Church from dividing and competing factions; make us all deeply one in you, we pray: 
– Lord Jesus, let the sick and those who suffer remember that you are one with them, we pray:
 – Lord Jesus, let the new wine of your grace flow in us, that it may make us great and strong in love and gentleness, we pray:   

Prayer over the Gifts   
Lord our God, loving Father, you planted your Son among us as the true life-giving vine.  Let him give himself to us today as the bread of strength and pour himself for us as the unifying, life-giving wine, that we may live in him and he in us.  And that we may bear fruits of unity and love in Christ Jesus, our Lord.   

Prayer after Communion   
Lord our God, loving Father, we thank you for filling us with the sap of life from Jesus, our true vine.  May we go on living in union with him and with one another, that in the uncertainties of life we may go on believing, hoping and building together a kingdom of love.  And when we grope in the dark in days of trial, reassure us that you are purifying our faith and that you are always with us in people and in your Son, Christ Jesus, our Lord for ever.

Blessing
Our Lord tells us today: “Remain, live in me, as I remain in you.” Yes, let us stay in his love and do the things of everyday life in union with him and in his strength. And let us take him to our brothers and sisters by our common concern and love. May Almighty God bless you for this, the Father who loves you, the Son who lives in you, and the Holy Spirit who guides you.