To better understand today’s readings, we need to know the context of the readings. In Acts we know the early church was persecuted both by the Romans and religious authorities. Their cruelty was amazing. But in the reading, we are told of the peace enjoyed by the new Christians. I find that in many families when in life situations they are experiencing pain and sorrow there is a sense of peace because of their strong faith. Miracles were happening. Saul who persecuted the Christians was now one of them. And he was vigorously proclaiming the faith. A strong faith is also a faith that enjoys a true sense of peace.
Acts helps our minds prepare for the reading of the Gospel of John. This is the well-known gospel message of the Vine and the Branches. Jesus is the vine, and we find life through Him. We are the branches and occasionally we need to be pruned and shaped to grow in faith. What many people do not realize is the place in the gospel where this passage comes. Just prior to this passage, Jesus has washed the feet of His disciples. Judas has taken the morsel handed to him by Jesus and has left to bring back the religious authorities to hand Jesus over to them. And Jesus has told Peter he will deny Him three times. Now Jesus is saying “Remain in me.”
I have visited homebound people or people in hospitals. As the visit draws to a close some will ask me ‘Please stay with me.’ They are lonely. Some are afraid or just lonely. ‘Just stay with me.’ They just want somebody with them. You do not even have to say a word. Jesus knew His disciples would desert Him in His hour. He asks them “Remain in me.” Jesus is making a heartfelt plea to His disciples. I wonder the sense of loss and abandonment He felt.
But the words “Remain in me” mean something more. They speak of a bond that extends beyond mere human understanding. A deeper spiritual quality that Jesus has developed in His disciples. Even though His disciples will desert Him they will come back. They have experienced that Godly peace that quiets the heart, enabling the Holy Spirit to strengthen you to return. So, even if you are not physically present you are bonded to Jesus spiritually.
The First Letter of John teaches us we are to believe in the name of Jesus and keep His commandments. When we do, we remain in Him as He remains in us. Let us not desert Jesus by falling into sin but rise with Him through virtuous deeds and loving our neighbor.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen