Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
(Acts 15:1-6; John 15:1-8)
Thomas Aquinas thought of virtue in a way that might surprise many. He saw it as a good quality of the mind that disposes humans to live righteously. So far, no surprises. But Thomas went on that no one can make bad use of a virtue. This idea is provocative. “Cannot a terrorist show courage in a holy war” someone might ask, “so how can it be said that no one can make bad use of it?” Thomas accepted the Christian tradition that true virtue is infused by God when the person surrenders to God in love. It is a gift which no one can use badly because it comes from God and remains related to Him as a gift of his love. The beginnings of virtue may be sown when God enters the soul at Baptism. In any case no one can make bad use of a gift that keeps her in a relationship with God. The same idea can be found in today’s gospel.
Jesus exhorts his disciples to remain in him as he remains in them. Both he and the Father will come to them with the Holy Spirit. The presence of all three will guide the disciple’s actions to always act in ways that conform to divine love. In this way their actions cannot be anything but good. Jesus uses the illustrative image of a vine and its branches to describe how virtue is transformed into benefits for others. He says that the Father will act like a gardener pruning the vines’ branch. Just as the pruned branches yield a greater harvest so life attentive to the Father’s commands will result in many blessings.
Our responsibility is to remain in Jesus by following his (and the Father’s) law of love. We are to go beyond the Golden Rule. Jesus tells us to love others as he has loved us. We are to make sacrifices for the good of others as Jesus died to free us from sin.