Sunday, May 2
Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 15: 1 – 8
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
John often uses poetic language to describe Jesus’ relationship with us by use of metaphors. In today’s Gospel, “I am the vine, you are the branches” highlights two such metaphors.
The “I am” refers back to Moses’ first experience with God at the burning bush in the desert. Moses asked “What name do I say to the Israelites when they ask me who sent me?” God gave the simple response of “I Am.” To the early Gospel readers, this was significant. If God gave his name to Moses, it meant that there was a special relationship between God and Moses and therefore with God and all the Israelites. Names were not readily exchanged between strangers as we might do today. That exchange established a personal relationship between God and his chosen people. That deep personal relationship carries through the centuries. In today’s Gospel, Jesus extends the metaphor that He is the great “I Am” in flesh and blood. God dwells with His people still and even in a more intimate way than described in the Old Testament.
The “vine and branches” metaphor would have been readily understood as how God’s new and more intimate relationship is now in a life-giving relationship. The vine feeds the branches so that the branches in turn can bear fruit. This Gospel gives us hope that we are connected to the vine in the form of Jesus. We bear His fruit by following His word and deed. Christ, who lives in us, becomes more than simply an inspiring teacher. He is to be a force in us which we participate. He is to be part of us — our very nature — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As branches, we cannot function alone. He is not simply a teacher, not simply a philosopher, He is the Word made flesh. Everything that exists — exists through Him. God is the structure and order of the world. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. In other words, we are one with Him or we are not. Yet, so many of us wander away and reject or escape that personal encounter with Jesus. Why would we wander away? To whom shall we go? Once we have a personal encounter with Jesus, any step we might take in any other direction would be a step away from the very meaning of life and truth. But if we remain part of the vine, we can and will bear much fruit to everyone we encounter.
-Deacon Don Poirier