There is a popular saying that goes, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” The quote refers to situations when, despite all the thinking, planning and discussing of doing something, it never materialises simply because no one ever never took action on it. Often we find ourselves in similar frustrating situations and perhaps we are also critical of people who talk more and act less.
In the First Epistle of John that we have as our second reading today, we hear these powerful words, “My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.” In fact, all the three readings today underscore the importance of good works by which the disciples of Jesus are marked out to be. In the early Church, it was the “good works” that marked them out to be different as described in the Acts of the Apostles – their lives involved faith and works. However, these actions were merely not to cultivate a feel good factor, but they were grounded in prayer and the commandments, the word and the sacrament.
If last Sunday’s Gospel was dominated by the expression “I am the Good Shepherd”, this Sunday we hear a parallel statement as Jesus proclaims, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). The metaphor of vine and branches characterises the intimate nature of the relationship between Jesus and His followers – similar to the shepherd “knowing” the sheep and vice versa. The intimacy of such a union in the connection between the vine and the branches and how the vine bears fruit through the branches. Compared to the image of the “good Shepherd”, this image of the vine and branches describe more intimately Jesus’ call to remain in Him as He remains in us!
These “symbols” used by Jesus were from the everyday experience of the people of His time. The intention of Jesus was to remind His disciples that a follower who chooses to imitate Jesus can only bear fruit if we remain connected with Jesus. The image of the vine and branches points to the fact that our faith is manifested by works of love that stem primarily from the heart of Jesus.
Though it has been said that our faith is manifested by works of love, it is not any ordinary love that we are called to emanate. The source or the fount from where our good works come is the person of Jesus Christ, on whom we must model our lives and the source of all inspiration. If this focus becomes blur, then it is our ego and self-love that becomes the centre of any good work.
St Fulgentius of Ruspe (Bishop, 460-533 AD) once preached, “Love, indeed, is the source of all good things, it is an impregnable defence and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray, nor be afraid, love guides him, protects him and brings him to his journey’s end”. The love that St Fulgentius was speaking about includes the love that took flesh and become man – Jesus Christ.
The Easter life that we are all called to live must be demonstrated in our love for God and for each other through deeds, a sign that we are united to Christ. There is great joy in seeing the love of God manifesting itself through our action for it is Christ who is glorified.
God the Father, described as the vinedresser in the Gospel, demands not mediocrity; that is why He gets rid of the fruitless branches and trims the branches so as to invigorate to become more fruitful – to bear good works.
Therefore, if “an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory”, then we must all seek to bear fruit in abundance and for that to happen, we must allow God to trim away all our “obstacles and distractions” to bearing fruit – could it be selfishness, unforgiveness, judgemental attitude, stubbornness, negativity, self-centredness, fault-finding? What is it that needs to be cut-off and thrown away so that we can remain in Him and He in us – to bear fruit in abundance!
Fifth Sunday of Easter (2 May 2021)