In the readings for this Sunday, April 29, Paul scares, and then joins, the Apostles, we have confidence in God, and we find out that we’re part of a vine.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
The readings for this Sunday, April 29, show us that sometimes our past can follow us. Paul, who had been Saul the oppressor of Christians, needed to show the disciples in Jerusalem that he had changed. His past scared them, and the proof of his change was the way he lived his life. He now spoke boldly for Jesus, and modeled his life after Jesus’. The second reading backs up the experience of the early Christian community–it says that words aren’t enough–we need to live in our words and our deeds. And our deeds should be loving. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that to be part of him is like belonging to a vine. The main body of the vine is where the strength is, where the nutrients come from; where the life comes from. Branches grow out from there and grow fruit.
[The Church] was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers..
I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
1 John 3:18-24
Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Actions speak louder than words; and when our actions don’t match our words, it becomes an awful noise. Paul’s actions before he met Jesus made him a fearful character to the disciples. They knew of his actions—condemning, hunting down, putting to death and in prison as many Christians as he could find. But, then he changed, and when he approached the Apostles in Jerusalem, his new actions—preaching boldly in Jesus’ name and participating in the life of the Christian community—he was accepted. He showed that he was a follower of Jesus by expressing his unity with Jesus’ teachings and his desire to build up the community.
John’s letter tells us that we can’t just love “in word or speech, but in deed and in truth.” He goes on to say that this is how we know that we really belong to God—when we have peace in our hearts because we know that we’re in line with Jesus’ teachings. A person whose heart is full of the noise of rage, hate, or discontent is clearly out of step with Christ. John gives us this test—if our hearts are at peace, we’re good to go. If our hearts are in chaos, we’re in need of some reflection and correction. God’s Spirit brings balance and love—other spirits bring chaos.
The way to keep in on the straight and narrow is to remain in Christ. He is the vine, and when we branch out from him, we bring his fruits with us. In another part of Scripture, Jesus says that a tree is known by its fruit. So it is with us. If I bring chaos and disorder with me wherever I go, I’m not attached to Christ. If I bring unity, wholeness, life-giving sacrifice with me, I’m attached to Christ. Those things only come from him. Our prayer life is the nourishment that allow our hearts to let Jesus’ words remain in them. To reconnect, to plug in; that’s what gives us Jesus’ peace to bring to the world. If we’re really connected with Jesus in prayer, whatever we ask for will be in line with God’s will, and then we’ll only ask in prayer for what is good for us.
Do you like grapes? Did you notice that they grow in big groups, kind of like families? What else do you notice about how they grow?
How can you tell if the relationships you have are good for you? How does being in good relationships affect the way you behave? How does being in unhealthy relationships affect you?
What noise does my heart make? Am I a source of peace to others, or do I cause chaos wherever I go? What sound do my actions make? Am I a bringer of Jesus’ love, or do I bring disunity? In what ways do I allow Jesus to be my source of peace? How healthy are the roots of my prayer life? How can I attach myself more perfectly to Christ so that it’s his peace that moves me?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Do you ever have any vines in your yard (grapes, wild grapes, honeysuckle, not poison ivy!!!, watermelon, squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers)? What happens when you pull on the branches of a vine? What happens if you try to pull a vine’s roots out? What happens when the vines are given what they need to stretch out and grow?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”