Monday, May 4, 2009

May 10: Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B

May 10: Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B
Readings: Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-18

This Sunday we celebrate Mothers’ Day. Happy Mothers’ Day to all moms at this Mass and those who are away. A special blessing for all moms will be given at the end of the Mass. The parable of the vine and the branches ties in beautifully with Mothers’ Day. The relationship of a mother and her pre-born child is one of total dependence. Even after birth, a human child depends upon his mother for nourishment, care and education. Today Jesus tells us that something similar applies to our relationship with him: we are the branches; he is the vine. As long as we are joined with him, we will develop and produce something of great value. If a Christian separates himself from Jesus, he or she will wither and die. In the second reading, John tells us that we remain in union with God: 1) by doing what pleases God; 2) by living out our faith in Jesus Christ; 3) by loving one another just as Jesus has commanded us. Voicing our faith in Jesus is not enough. It must be backed up by action.

The Gospel continues the theme started in the first reading of being in union with God. Jesus presents to us a most profound reflection on the spirituality of his disciples in the parable of the vine and its branches. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit". The image of the vine and the branches is very appropriate for this theme. The message is straight forward. If we are to bear any fruit, we must remain intimately connected to the vine, Jesus Christ. "Whoever remains in me, and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing". John the Evangelist likens spiritual growth to the growth of a vine branch. It cannot bear fruit by itself. It must remain part of the vine. We too must remain in Christ in order to bear any fruit. We must maintain an intimate relationship with Christ. The passage also offers us some practical suggestions. "Every one that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it bears more fruit". In other words, we must let ourselves be pruned constantly, that is, shaped after the example of Christ, if we are to grow spiritually. The image of pruning is quite powerful. To let ourselves be pruned by the vine grower (the Father), car¬ries with it the idea of Paul's self-emptying like Christ, who though "his nature was divine...did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave...". The biggest obstacle to our spiritual growth is basically ourselves. It is by letting the self go and in submitting our¬selves to the Father to be pruned; to be shaped; to be transformed, that we become profoundly connected to Christ and thereby become more fruitful spiritually. What message do we take home? 1) Jesus wants us to remain intimately connected to him so that we may produce much fruit; 2) Jesus also wants us to be pruned; to be transformed into his likeness so that we may produce even more fruit for his kingdom; 3) Just as children after birth are totally dependent on their moms, we too are like children very dependent on Christ for our growth in spiritual maturity.

©2009 John M. Mbinda

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