“Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:21-22.
Last Sunday, we celebrated our Lord Jesus Christ as our Good Shepherd, the one who lays down his life for us, his sheep. Today, being the fifth Sunday of Easter, Jesus goes even further to describe himself as the vine while we are the branches. In other words, not only is Jesus our Shepherd (our guardian, our protector, our provider), our very survival depends on him. Just as branches die off when cut from the stem, our true life dies when we are cut off from Jesus.
It is sad to say today that many of us Christians are cut off from Jesus the vine. How? We are very religious but not spiritual. We are very good Church-goers but not real worshipers. There is no street in our society that has less than ten churches; most of which are operated by self-acclaimed, untrained men and women of God as functional business centres just to provide food for themselves and their dependents.
Every Sunday, our churches are filled up with millions of people, most of whom are in attendance to get a shot at a better life, to kill all those enemies responsible for their poverty, sickness, unemployment etc. and get supernatural wealth all of a sudden. In truth, it is not Christ that we seek but the basic things our government has failed to provide; money, security and overall wellbeing. That is why corruption, crime, evil and immorality continue to increase as new churches open up daily.
How do I know whether I am connected to Christ? Is it by dressing attractively to church (so as to keep the eyes of everyone focused on my hot body)? Is it by rubbing myself on the floor or allowing the man/woman of God abuse me mentally and psychologically? Or is it by sowing the biggest seed, is it even by my faithfulness to tithing? Not at all. Let me state categorically here that tithe is not a prerequisite for going to heaven neither is it a bribe to God. It is a personal act of faith in God as the ultimate provider. In the Catholic Church, tithes are neither compulsory nor condemned. God loves a cheerful (not a fearful) giver.
How do I know whether or not I am connected to Christ? Our readings today give us three answers. 1. PRACTICAL LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER. 2. THE EXISTENCE OF SIN IN OUR LIVES and 3. WILLINGNESS TO ABIDE IN GOD’S WORD.
Practical love for one another is one thing missing among Christians today. We lack mercy, we are always suspicious of each other, we engage in unending competitions, we never come to the aid of those in need. The apostles almost put an end to Paul’s missionary enterprise by their poor reception; thanks to Barnabas who spoke on his behalf in Christian charity. We need more Barnabas today. We need people who believe in the goodness of others despite whatever may have been their past.
John tells us in our second reading that our Love for one another should not be a matter of talk but practical action and in truth; that is, in sincerity. We are very good at “sweet-mouth” but we never really help people. And even when we help, we are not sincere because we are always expecting to get back. We only think of ourselves; that is why when we find ourselves in positions of leadership, we loot, we steal, we divert funds.
Secondly, another strong point that tells me whether I am connected to Christ is the existence and frequency of sin in my life. Sin is an offence against God which cuts us away from him; sin makes us hide from God’s presence like Adam and Eve; sin destroys our prayer life; sin brings about self-condemnation and guilt. St. John says: “if our hearts do not condemn us; we have confidence before God…because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” 1st John 3:21-22. When I am always doing things that are not pleasing to God, it shows I am not connected.
Brothers and sisters, there is too much sin amongst us. Evil has grown in leaps and bounds and our new technologies are not helping much as they help publicise rather than curtail evil. Reports have shown that eighty to ninety percent of pages visited on the internet by smartphone users are pornographic, crime-related, unhealthy and basically ungodly. We are very much informed but morally deformed.
The third point to consider today so as to know whether I am connected to Christ is my willingness to read the Bible. Jesus tells us: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.” John 15:8. We are more focused in the aspect of asking whatever we will but we completely leave out the aspect of allowing God’s words abide in us. The truth is that we don’t read the Bible. We carry it to show off, we don’t even know which book comes after which. We pick out verses from the Bible at random; of course, verses that sound nice in the ear. This is why I like the Catholic Church, we read whole passages not simply selected verses.
If all you know about the Bible is from what others have preached to you, then you are most likely to be deceived. Like Satan who quoted verses out of context to deceive Jesus, our men and women of God today are specialists in quoting verses to mesmerize the people to get what they want. No wonder they are able to abuse people in the name of signs and wonders. My brothers and sisters, you must read the Bible for yourself oh. Let the words of God abide in you so that you would know the truth and you would know when someone is trying to trick you with the Bible.
It is only when I am truly connected to Christ, when I love my neighbours as myself, when I free my heart of hatred, revenge and indifference, it is only when I free myself from sinfulness, when my heart does not condemn me, and when I abide in God’s word that I can ask and receive whatever I want from God.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, bring me back to you the vine. Cut off from me everything and anything that cuts me off from abiding in you. Cleanse my heart of evil and give me grace to grow above my inclination to sins especially my habitual sins. Wash me O Lord and implant in me the willingness to read the Bible for myself. Amen.
*Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (The Fifth Sunday of Easter. Bible Study: Acts 9:26-31, 1st John 3:18-24 and John 15:1-8).*