Interesting readings, all three of them. But the first and the Gospel readings are particularly interesting.
In the first reading, it would appear that Paul’s earlier persecution of the early Church had finally caught with him. The disciples kept him at a distance, doubted the sincerity of his conversion and were suspicious of his real motives and intentions. Luckily, Barnabas comes to Paul’s rescue with evidence of Paul’s “blinding” and eye opening encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, his instant conversion and his renunciation of the follies of his past. How often are you willing to speak up for someone when you have solid evidence that they have really changed. Do you have the courage or “the liver” as we say in Nigerian English to do that? Or do you succumb to mass pressure and keep quiet? Ditto for situations when you are confronted with the need to speak up for the truth, for the right, for the oppressed, against glaring injustice. What do you choose? Check well!
There is also a way in which Paul’s spree of persecuting the early church in his past resonates with a recent happening in Naija’s socio-political space. Some remarks a current high political appointee made in his youth are acting forward and creating serious doubts as to his continued suitability for the elevated position he currently holds. A number of “Barnabases” have come forward with what can be described as the most shallow demonstrations of affected contrition to explain away that folly and dangerous utterances and are doing so with irritating degrees of puerile arrogance compounded by a mix of crooked thinking and debilitating ignorance.
But the fake affected contrition is not getting much traction as observers are unable to spot any genuine change on the part of the offender from those pushing his defense with what amounts to egregious logic. In Paul’s case, Barnabas was able to tell us how Paul disputed with Hellenists after his conversion. (Hellenism is essentially rooted in polytheism – a polytheism that enabled mortals, if you ask me, to project and blame most of their follies on a pantheon of gods. Remember Appollo, Zeus, Poseidon, Jupiter, Athena, Artemis etc? A bit like ATR, especially Igbo religion, with our pantheon of gods, unlike Christianity which preaches monotheism!) And for someone like Paul to speak against and dispute with Hellenists meant that he had truly recanted and moved beyond the religion and beliefs of his younger days. Has our high level government appointee done something similar? Has he challenged and renounced the religious extremism and bigotry that were the hallmarks of his youth? The answer is NO! Case closed. He either recants or he resigns or he is removed.
The gospel reading brings in the concept of the Vine. Christ is the Vine, God the father, the keeper of the Vineyard. We are the branches. And the keeper of the vineyard prunes the Vine, thereby removing from the growing tree all signs and traces of unproductivity, clutter and death. Cut off from the Vine, the branches have no life. On the Vine, and with the Vine, the branches have life and are productive, and being productive bear fruits in season and in plenty.
And what are these fruits that the attached and live branches of the Vine produce? Certainly, not the grapes that yield Beaujolais or Chardonnay, and sorry if this info is not to your liking. And certainly not the sweet saps of ngwo or nkwu enu, the types one of my Canadian friends that I introduced to these inebriating fluids described as the nectar of the gods! No, I believe that these fruits are the same ones that you come across in Gal 5 : 22-23…..love, joy, peace, patience, self control, gentleness, kindness. These are the fruits that grow on the true Vine that God has planted in His vineyard. May we remain attached to that Vine and bear fruits in all the seasons of our lives, through Christ our Lord, the true Vine.