Today’s Readings make it clear that all is well when God is with us. But what about us: are we always with Him and for Him? Being on God’s side may seem a natural thing, but we do reject Him sometimes, don’t we? Sin is to blame. It causes us to disbelieve. Hence, a turnaround is always in order and can make all the difference.

That is how it was in the life of Saul. In the First Reading (Acts 9: 26-31), we see how his life changed on his way to Damascus, in a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. Given his poor track record, however, the Apostles did not regard him as a disciple. Until Barnabas put in a word for him. He told them how Paul had boldly preached Jesus in the capital of Syria. In an about-face, Saul had become Paul.

‘Great things happen when God mixes with us,’ says a hymn. ‘Some find life, some find peace; some people also find joy…. Some see their lives as they never could before/ And some people find that they must now begin to change.’ That was the story of Paul too: he found life, peace, joy. Above all, he found the need to change. Enriched by special charisms, he argued among the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews), and eventually became one of the greatest spokesmen for Christ.

Meanwhile, St John in the Second Reading (1 Jn 3: 18-24) stipulates that love of God ought not to be limited to word or speech; it must be seen in deed and in truth. It is vital for love of God to translate into love of neighbour. Not a cakewalk, though. Very often, we only act civil and camouflage our bitterness. Worse still, if we do it for self-gain. Plain-speaking or forthrightness is preferable; it may make us vulnerable, but then, we have nothing to hide – or lose – anyway, do we?

It goes without saying that love must not be self-centred but God-centred. But to think that we can love by ourselves is an illusion; we can do so only with God’s help. Human beings are selfish by nature, and trying to love neighbour before we learn to love God is like chasing an impossible dream. The fact is that mutual love would come more easily if everyone made an effort to put God before self. We cannot stress enough how God has to be at the centre of our attention.

To make God the be-all and end-all of our life, it would be ideal for members of our community to share the same understanding of Him. This is possible if we all seek the truth and are duly instructed. Proper catechesis would go a long way towards making up for heterodox ideas gaining currency in our midst. The world would find it easier to accept Jesus as our only Saviour, if Christians readily bore witness to Him. After all, Jesus has proved His Divinity. His Resurrection is the bedrock of our faith. Against this fact there can be no argument nor authorities or testimonies devoid of counterproof.

Earlier in the Easter season Jesus said: ‘I am the Bread of Life’ (Jn 6: 35); ‘I am the Light of the World’ (Jn 8: 12); ‘I am the Door’ (Jn 10: 9); ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ (Jn 10: 11, 14); ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’ (Jn 11: 25); ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life’ (Jn 14: 6) – and in today’s Gospel (Jn 15: 1-8), He says: ‘I am the Vine’ (Jn 15: 5). He is the Vine; His Father, the Vinedresser; and you and I, the branches of the Vine. Every branch that bears fruit is pruned by the Heavenly Father that it may bear more fruit; every other that doesn’t, he takes away.

Thereafter comes a clincher: ‘He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.’ To abide in Him we have to be clean, be pruned of all our imperfections; to abide with Him means to keep His commandments. It is one thing to be patient towards those who have not had exposure to Christian doctrine; it is quite another to be complaisant towards those of our flock who consciously offend God, be it in words or deeds. Many mock Him openly, others adopt irreverent postures. This calls for some fraternal correction, or else, of love there will only be the shell.

St Paul calls us to be all things to all people. Yet, we must never act against moral principles merely to love others or be loved by them. It is futile to love others out of human respect (excessive regard for their opinions or esteem). No person is worth sacrificing a principle for; and it is ‘better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.’ Even a morally good act is meritorious only if done because it follows God’s law and is intrinsically good. In fact, only when human law is united with divine law, and human love with divine love, can divine life penetrate human life. That is when we will truly abide with God and He in us.