Bear fruits that will impact positively on society and humanity

Readings: Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 2:18-24; John 15:1-8.

Bear fruits that will impact positively on society and humanity.

On this fifth Sunday of Easter, we are gathered in St. Elizabeth, Kogo, to confirm 240 candidates and to join in holy matrimony, 16 couples, which is part of the growth being experienced by your pastoral area since its foundation in October 2020. You have continued to grow and multiply. You have Fr. James George as captain of the pastoral ship here. From what I see, you will go a long way, and perhaps overtake even Holy Trinity, Maitama!

Every Sunday, a good Catholic is supposed, even without a homily, to discover for himself or herself from the first and second readings, the Psalm, and the Gospel reading, the key point to take home. We do “take away” when we go to Chinese restaurants or any other restaurant. We should also do “take away” each Sunday, when we come to Mass. What is your “take away” today?

The lesson in today’s gospel is that if a branch gets detached from the stem and the roots, it will wither rapidly and die. Dead things don’t bear fruit of any kind; only living things do.

Jesus applies the image of the vine to Himself and His relationship with His disciples. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. This means that our lives must be rooted in Christ, for cut off from Him, we are quite simply, good for nothing (cf. Jn 15:5). The observance of commandments, the beatitudes, and the works of mercy demand first of all, that we be united in Jesus, to abide in Him, so that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us (cf. Phil 4:13).

Occasionally, I see some social media preachers condemning Catholics aggressively; you would think their lives or salvation depend on how viciously they condemn the Catholic Church and its doctrine, traditions, worship, etc. They seem to be so angered by the presence of the Catholic Church in every nook and cranny of the world. They know that the Catholic Church has organizational ability, hierarchical orderliness, uniformity of the sacraments, diplomatic finesse, etc. Somebody must research why such pastors launch such violent verbal attacks on the Catholic Church.

Instead of preaching about the word of God, heaven, salvation, and love beyond frontiers, they emit bile and heap unprintable vocabularies on Catholics. They struggle so hard to portray Catholics as bad people, not even Christians, but satanic, cultists, etc. The Lord is good! According to the latest statistics, the number of baptized Catholics is on the rise, getting closer to 1.4 billion! Our Church continues to grow without much noise or fuss; no adverts, no promise of miracles, no material enticements, no pull him down (PHD) preaching; the grace of God is sufficient.

They attack us that we worship Mary. We don’t. We only honor her as God first honored her, followed by the Archangel. I tell Catholics that if they accuse you of “worshipping” Mary, without fear or shame, burst into “Hail Mary full of Grace….”

They attack us for not knowing the Bible: in their fanatical interpretation of the Bible, they believe the Bible dropped from heaven. We Catholics say it is the word of God written in the words of men. They say, “sola scriptura,” that it is only scripture that should guide us. Catholics say, that before the Bible was written, the Catholic Church was already flourishing.

The Bible was a product of Catholic Church traditions. Perhaps they need to study the history of the Bible: the canonical books of the Christian Bible were approved by various Councils, Synods, and Popes of the Catholic Church, beginning with the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. The New Testament was written over the course of almost a century after Jesus’ death. The first gospel was written 40 years after the death of Jesus. They need to know that the Bible’s origin is both human and divine—not just from God and not just from humans. When they say, “Is it in the Bible?” they forget John 21:25 which says, “Many other things that Jesus did, which, if each of these were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not be able to contain the books that would be written.”

They do not know that John Chrysostom between 386 and 388 AD was the first to use the Greek phrase ta biblia (“the books”) to describe both the Old and New Testaments together.

They may have not known that the first complete printed Bible was by the Catholic Church, the work of one Johannes Gutenberg in about 1455. How do you turn around to attack the Catholic Church of not knowing the Bible and just having become a church denomination, you claim to interpret it even better than the Church Fathers: Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp who saw and heard from the Apostles.

What is most important to a Christian is not how expert you are in condemning your fellow Christians, but how much fruit you bear by being rooted in Christ. Unfortunately, some Christians think they are real Christians depending on how nastily they criticize other Christians or Muslims. Sadly, too, some Muslims believe that putting their religious interests first in both public and government affairs is a priority to checkmate any other religious groups. The Bible or Koran does not ask us to commit injustice against another, fight useless fights or engage in useless arguments.

We call on our brothers and sisters who spend hours of their church service attacking the Catholic Church to devote more time to preaching love, to seek ways of living out practical Christianity to counteract the trending secularism, inhuman and unnatural behaviors, lack of respect for life, etc. It is time to band together to tackle the roots of poverty, disease, violence, etc. Just be nice to people whether they are Muslims, Buddhists, or even pagans. This is what can make the world go round. See the neighbor in the eyes of your brother or sister, not as an enemy to be dominated, eliminated, discriminated against, etc.

Catholics come to worship not because of a personality who has become a cult, an excellent preacher, miracle worker, visionary, or prophet. We come to Church to commune with Jesus because we are convinced of His presence in the Eucharist.

To all our “born again” critics, you don’t need to become hostile to anyone to express your love for Christ. Let your good fruits show, like those of Paul and Barnabas. Tertullian, a second Century Apologist and theologian, in his treatises To the Gentiles and Apology, written in defense of the faith, once said that the pagans should be able to say of the Christians, “Look . . . how they love one another and how they are ready to die for each other…”

May our lives reflect the love and unity that Christ calls us to, so that the world may know that we are His disciples, and as the ending of the first reading says, Christians of whatever background should be “walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 9:31).

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