May 22, 2019
(St. Rita of Cascia, Religious)
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers (Paul and Barnabas), “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Acts_15:1-6
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. . . . you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Jn_15:1-8
Jesus used many different examples to describe His relationship with the Father, and how our relationship with Him should be, as well.
He spoke of the obedience of a servant to his master. He spoke of the trust of a sheep with her shepherd. And He even spoke of the covenant promise made between bartering parties, like the fathers of a marrying couple, or like the covenants made between God and those Patriarchs of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. So the relationship that Jesus was describing was one of obedience, trust and commitment.
And if either party was to ever break that covenant, that relationship, it would certainly be the cause of their death, the same as breaking (cutting) the life-giving umbilical cord of a fetus or the branch from a grape vine.
The Jews knew well the importance of keeping the Old Covenant commitments with God. And, just like the sign of the rings of the marriage vow, the sign used for the covenant between the Jews and God was circumcision.
Unfortunately, so much time had passed between when Abraham and Moses had made those promises to God, and the time of Jesus, that the people had all but forgotten the Commandments, save for the Sign. So when Paul and Barnabas were trying to explain the New Covenant of Jesus, the covenant of Love and Salvation, all that, many of the Jews could remember, and vehemently clung to, was that SIGN of circumcision, without understanding that that OLD Sign was now obsolete.
It would be like insisting that the training wheels on your child-sized bicycle be installed on your adult bike, as unnecessary as they would be. To Paul and Barnabas, it made no sense!
You see, the Old Covenant of Moses only kept them from premature death, in their separation from God the Father. The New Covenant of Jesus, in reuniting them with the Father, now brought them eternal Life – in relationship WITH God. And not only Life for themselves, but Life that could be shared with the world.
When we remain on the “vine” that Jesus described today; when we remain in relationship with the Father, through Jesus, our umbilical cord, (and through His Church) then all of His LIFE, and JOY, and PEACE, and HOPE will so fill our lives, that it will be near-impossible for others not to want the same kind of Life. And THAT beloved, is the “Fruit,” the sweetness of God, that only Jesus can bring!
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