First Reading: Acts 15:1-6
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoeni'cia and Sama'ria, reporting the conversion of the Gentiles, and they gave great joy to all the brethren. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses." The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 122:1-5
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!" Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem, built as a city which is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.
Gospel: John 15:1-8
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.
You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.
Have you ever been accepted, wholly accepted, by a new friend? Or maybe you felt that home-feeling when you met the love of your life. Or perhaps your family of origin was this kind, the kind you could ask anything of. You're already made clean; you just have to ask and it will be done for you. All you have to do is abide in that relationship, be really present and open to it, and this is what Christ offers us today.
Long before my relationship with God had matured enough to encompass this level of unconditional acceptance, I felt it in my family. As the fourth of five, a fiercely loyal clan (self-styled), I grew up knowing my siblings had my back. I was born into this love and couldn't break out even if I wanted to. These relationships between five adults, almost all in our 30's, have needed time and attention. We weren't automatically close as we got older and pursued different directions, some marrying with kids, others marrying without, others single, some entrenched in their work, others at home with babies.
My siblings all flew out to visit me when I lived out of state multiple times over four years. I still continue to travel to visit them, helping when they have a new baby, or a new house. One sister just took a long road trip with our brother. Another babysat my kids so I could help with a new nephew out of state. Still another prepares her new home for all of us to invade from out of town. We're investing in the love bank and watching it bear fruit, all the while working, working, and caring about these relationships.
Even though we were born into this clan which will do and do 'til exhaustion hits (and we get that example from our folks), that additional step of making the time and effort for each other as adults drives the love into action that makes the relationships deeper.
Christ says we're part of the saved people, despite not being from the tribe of Israel, the Chosen People. He says we're made clean and that by abiding in Him, we will bear fruit. We will be vessels of love and prove to be His disciples. But it's not enough to be made clean, we have to choose to abide in Him, as my siblings are choosing to continue our loving clannish relationship. And just as their love for me has formed my life, so my love for Him has formed me.
Choose to live with love, active love, and reap the rewards.
Nell O'Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.