Imagine yourself in the early Jerusalem Christian community gathered for Sunday Eucharist, and in walks Saul, well-known for his persecution of the Church. What would your reaction be?
Saul’s friends must have had a hard time convincing the community that Saul was on their side. Barnabas was his “guardian angel”–nicknamed the “son of encouragement” according to an earlier story in Acts. Not a bad friend to have if you’re Saul and badly in need of credibility.
Barnabas must have been convincing since the story says Saul was soon “moving freely” about Jerusalem and preaching boldly. In fact, enemies of the Christian community were soon plotting to kill Saul. His zeal made him controversial no matter whose side he was on!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the comparison of vine and branches to describe our unity with him. In a community, the unity we share with Christ must also mean we are united with each other. The story about Saul and the Jerusalem community reminds us how important it is to affirm one another within our contemporary parish settings. We must welcome and integrate those who are new to the community. We may need to support our more zealous and outspoken members when they witness boldly. In all things we strive to keep Jesus’ command: to love one another as he has loved us.
Sunday reflection by Father Greg Friedman, from St. Anthony Messenger Press, find it on the web at Franciscanmedia.org. Shared with permission.