The conversion of Saul brought great consolation to the people of God. All conversion brings us new life, for ourselves and also to others around us. We need this conversion so that evil will disappear and the whole world will feel peace and tranquillity. Conversion is a fruit of the encounter, an encounter of man with truth. This encounter helps us to know ourselves and also to recognise the evil we do to ourselves and to others.
Today the Church invites us to re-read the conversion of Saul to Paul. What was the real difference between Saul, a soldier of the law, and Paul, a soldier now for the risen Christ? Listening to today's gospel we can easily discover that Saul was those braches that were attached to the vine, like Paul today. Yet Saul was a branch that did not produce the fruit God intended. His knowledge of the sacred Scriptures and his mastery of the law gave him an arrogance and pride that Saul valued as the important elements of his life as a man who worships the true God.
The encounter with Jesus destroyed the branches that were not producing the fruit God intended, particularly those arrogance and knowledge and helped him to grow the new branches of humility and openness. Once converted, Paul wanted to stay in Jerusalem and continue to proclaim the Good News and be the true witness of the resurrection. This commitment is to be commended. However, God chose another way and he will go from Jerusalem to Tarsus. A faithful and strong jewish man was chosen to peach the pegan community and a weak person of Peter was chosen to teach the strong and learned. I invite you to review our life, so that we too can recognise the branches that attach themselves to the vine without producing any fruit. Like Paul, who understood the need to put everything before God, and gave up the place of his knowledge, mastery and goodwill, to the fulfilment of God's will, we must voluntarily prune these branches.
I would like to add a very important element to this parable. It is God who is the Vintner who chose and planted these vines that we are. What is this fruit that God desires from us and the fruit that we produce? In both readings we heard two important elements as a fruit desired by God. Forgiveness and love in truth. As the people of God who accepted Paul not only forgave him, but also protected him we must forgive our brothers and sisters and accompany them to grow as children of God. This forgiveness is the true sign of love. It is lovng God in our weak brothers and sisters. They too need the compasion and love of God.
The parable of the Vine and its branches teach us to recognise the revelation of God's dwelling in the hearts of men and the need for man to abide in God, if he desires to give fruit. How can we abide in Him? Through the celebration of the sacraments such as the Eucharist, through the readings of the sacred scriptures, through our positive commitments to the fulfilment of the divine will. Abiding in God is a voluntary detachment from the elements that exhaust us like wild branches. We must recognise that this detachment is not easy, yet we must identify it and detach ourselves, for this detachment will help us to attach ourselves to the vine. Let us always remain with the Lord and we will bear fruit. Amen.