The church was at peace and growing with the consolation of the Holy Spirit. At this point in the history of Christianity the disciples fully understand how the Spirit is at work within them. They knew that the Spirit was providing them with wisdom and understanding to explain the prophecies about Jesus. They now fully understand how the power of God was available to them so the word they preach would be confirmed with signs and wonders. The church was growing in numbers and there was excitement in the people and then Paul shows up.
Paul of Tarsus now a believer after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul is now preaching the same message of salvation that the disciples were preaching. This about face by Paul happened after Christ appears to him and after Ananias laid hands on him and prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill him. But the scriptures tell us that the disciples did not trust Paul; they knew his reputation of persecuting Christians. But by now the word coming to them from the Disciples of Damascus of his conversion would have been discussed by them. Ananias would have explained to them how God spoke to him about Paul being set apart and chosen by God.
It would seem that Paul would have been welcomed among them. After all, compared to their humble background he was a Pharisee well versed in the scriptures and the law. Paul’s training would have made him a formidable preacher and defender of this new faith in Christ. Yet they did not trust him enough so they sent him away.
Today we find ourselves in a Church well versed in its basic dogma. We find ourselves where much of what we do is teaching our communities how to live out their faith as Catholics. We teach and preach the concept of giving of our time and talent to serve the body of Christ. To some extent this concept finds its roots in today’s gospel of “bearing fruit.” Yet even in this modern age we have the Paul’s who come to our communities and they like Paul are met with suspicion and are not accepted. We find in our communities unwillingness by those in ministry to provide opportunities for new members to use their gifts. Often the people who are dominant in those ministries are set in their ways and set in how the various ministries work; so much so that we lose opportunities to bear more fruit.
John tells us that even a branch that bears fruit is pruned so that it bears more fruit. Pruned – barriers to growth removed so that new growth can occur. New growth means new opportunities to show the power of God at work within our communities. Yet, in the many parishes we have ministries locked up by well-intended people because they believe that they do not need any more people involved with them. Gifted people desiring opportunities to produce fruit are being ignored and turned away like Paul of Tarsus.
This gospel is a strong word from our God telling us that we need to be constantly growing. Not just growing spiritually, which we must, but growing as a community in a way that visibly shows our love of God and love of neighbor. We like Ananias must be listening to God so we know without a doubt what we are to be doing for the kingdom. Ananias had no desire to go pray with Paul but he did. We too must be willing to follow God’s plan even when that direction goes against our instincts. We must listen to God as Ananias did in order to see abundant fruit. We need to be listening to God as Barnabas did when he took charge of Paul to ensure there was a place for him in the community of believers. Look at the fruit of Paul submitting to God’s will for his life.
Over the past 17 years of ministry I have witnessed many Ananias’ and many Barnabas’. People who openly welcomed new members who wished to give of themselves to help the body grow. Unfortunately, I have also met far too many who were steadfast in their denial of all offers to join them in their ministries. We will never reach our potential as church if we are not open to what God wishes to do within us. God desires to prune us, so that even if we are producing much fruit, we can produce even more abundantly.
The key to this happening is by us remaining attached to Jesus. Not attached to our ministry but attached to Jesus. We must be constant in our prayer and take time to listen to Jesus. We must be open to the move of the Spirit within us speaking to our hearts. We must be surrendering our will to the Spirit to keep us obedient to the plan of God for us and for the place where he has planted us.
The key to this kind of attitude is for us to be glorifying God is by first asking God to pour his Spirit into our hearts. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit the night before he died that he would remind us of everything he ever said and did (Jn. 14:26). Then we should seek to become one with the Word. God said to us that “we have already been pruned because of the word I spoke to you.” Without us doing these two things we will find ourselves doing our work not God’s.