5th Sunday of Easter B21
Saul had returned to Jerusalem, not as a persecutor but as a disciple. The community of disciples, however, remembered his role in the stoning death of Stephen so that they were afraid of him, hesitant to believe in his conversion. After all, can a leopard change its spots? Now Barnabas, who had sold a piece of land he owned and presented the money to the apostles, brought Saul/Paul to them, stood before them and vouched on Paul’s behalf that Paul was a disciple, had met the risen Christ, and had spoken out boldly in Damascus in the name of the Lord. If Barnabas hadn’t done so, imagine how different the church might have been! Ultimately Barnabas and Paul became co-apostles to the Church in Antioch and elsewhere, preaching and encouraging the first Christians.
In the First Letter of John, the author tells us, “let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth.”That’s exactly what Barnabas did, not only talking on Paul’s behalf but also standing up for him. For John, belief in Jesus is not an intellectual exercise but a motivator of all the believer does.
In the Gospel today Jesus says “I am the vine”, another image of who he is in relation to his followers. This description is the final one of seven in John’s gospel and acts as the top one. Jesus had self-identified as the living bread, the light of the world, the sheep-gate, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, and the truth and the light. He would feed, guide, protect, and lead his disciples as well as give them life and true knowledge.
The image of the vine and the branches is really an image of our connection with God. The same life-force that flows through the vine flows through us. We are intrinsically linked! Imagine that! But, at the same time we have to play our part “in deed and in truth”. We have a choice to either bear fruit with an occasional pruning that enables us to be more fruitful or became just leaves or dead wood, separating ourselves from the vine to be cut off and cast away.
We must daily choose to be fruitful branches, receiving God’s life and freely giving it to others, enabling them, as Barnabas did for Paul, to be fruitful themselves.
 The name means “son of encouragement” in the sense of rescue, support, and defense.
 1 John 3:18.
 I counted! In addition, Jesus uses the name of God that was given to Moses, “I AM” four times in John’s gospel, identifying himself as being one with God.