Saturday, May 2, 2015

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 Christ, 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 reveals himself to us as a shepherd who gathers the sheep into one flock under one shepherd. This Sunday in the parable of the vine and the branches Jesus reveals his relationship with us using the metaphor of the vine and its branches: we are the branches; He is the vine. This is truly an amazing 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 God’s will; that is doing what pleases God; 2) by living out our faith in Jesus Christ; 3) by loving one another just as Jesus has commanded us. Words about our faith in Jesus particularly for those of us who are clergy, religious and catechists is not enough. Our words must be backed up by action; by the way we live and relate to other 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 and stewardship 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 its branches is very appropriate for this theme. The message is straight forward. In order 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 compares 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, to be transformed by Christ so that we may grow spiritually. Transforming people one at a time is at the heart of God’s plan for the world. 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 – the enemy within. 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 be effective witnesses who bring other disciples to his Church; 2) Jesus also wants us to be pruned; to be transformed into his mission, vision and purpose. He wants us to have his likeness so that we may produce even more fruit for his kingdom; 3) By letting go the self and submitting our­selves to the Father to be transformed, we become profoundly connected to Jesus Christ and thereby make progress in winning the war within.
©2015 John S. Mbinda

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