Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B
Readings: Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-18
The vine, the branches, remaining in Jesus, bearing much fruit and being pruned, are some of the phrases that help us to focus on the central message of this Sunday. Last Sunday, Jesus presented himself to us as a shepherd who stretches his arms gathering the sheep into one flock under one shepherd. This Sunday Jesus in the parable of the vine and the branches he describes our relationship with him using the image of a vine and its branches: we are the branches; he is the vine. This is truly an extraordinary image and very true to life. As long as we remain connected to Jesus, we will develop and produce something of great value. If we separate ourselves from Christ, we will wither and die. In the second reading, from the first Letter of John we learn three ways by which we remain in communion 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 particularly for those of us who are clergy and religious is not enough. Our words must be backed up by action; by the way we live and relate with our parishioners; a life that shows that we are indeed connected to Jesus Christ.
The Gospel continues the theme started in the Second reading of being in union with God. Jesus presents to us a most profound reflection on the spirituality of discipleship 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), carries with it the idea of purification, cleansing and transformation; It carries the idea of being renewed. The biggest obstacle to our spiritual growth is basically ourselves. It is by letting go the self and in submitting ourselves to the Father to be pruned; to be shaped; to be transformed, that we become profoundly connected to Jesus Christ and thereby become spiritually more fruitful. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 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 a newly born baby is totally dependent on the mother, we too are like a baby are very dependent on Christ for our spiritual survival, growth and maturity.
©2012 John S. Mbinda