Fifth Sunday Of Easter, Year B
May 2, 2021 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Acts 9:26-31 | Psalm 22:26-28;30-32
I John 3:18-24| John 15:1-8
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In today’s Gospel from John, known as the “Vine and Branches”, Jesus explains to us that He is the vine and we are the branches, and God, the Father, Jesus’ Father, is the caretaker or gardener.
This event occurred near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry as Jesus and His disciples had finished their meeting in the upper room.
The format of this Gospel is that of an “allegory” or expanded metaphor. The mere fact that it is stated as an allegory makes it more dramatic than if it were written simply as a narrative.
As followers of Jesus, we are expected to bear good fruit as part of our mission here on earth.
In today’s first reading from Acts, Paul has made a complete transformation after his conversion: from Saul, the persecutor, to Paul, the minister of Good News. He bears good fruit after his conversion to follow Jesus.
In today’s second reading from John, John tells us that actions speak louder than words when he says, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” We are transformed by the Word of God just as Paul was and in so doing, we bear fruit as a sign of our unity with Jesus.
“Those who keep His commandments remain in Him, and He in them, and the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He gave us.”.
The metaphor of today’s Gospel is of a vine and its branches. The vine is what sustains life for the branches, and the branches must abide in the vine in order to live and bear fruit. Jesus is the vine and the branches are the disciples and us.
So, obviously, the fruit-bearing branches represent the true followers of Jesus, but what about the fruitless ones? Some theologians believe they are followers who simply do not bear fruit while others believe they are agnostics or atheists, or even Judas, who some believe was never a true disciple.
But we need to remember that Jesus was not introducing a new idea by using the metaphor of the vine and the branches. In the Old Testament, God’s vine was Israel. God used the Jews in Israel to accomplish His purpose in the world and God, as the vinedresser or gardener, cared for, trimmed, and cut off the branches that did not bear fruit. Then God’s vine degenerated and bore no fruit. So God took away its wall and left it unprotected. It was then besieged by foreign nations and laid to waste.
So now we have a new vine: Jesus. While Israel was imperfect, Christ is perfect!
Jesus chose to use the metaphor of the vine for several reasons:
–the earthliness of the vine shows His humility
–a vine is symbolic of belonging for if branches are to live and bear fruit, they must depend completely on the vine
–there is a vital union existing between the vine and its branches
Many people today who call themselves Catholics Christians, or followers of Jesus, are in reality more attached to their bank accounts, their fame, possessions, popularity, or other earthly desires instead of their union with Jesus.
In today’s metaphor, Jesus is portrayed as a plant, whereas, God, the Father, is portrayed as a person. Some people claim that this shows that Christ is not Divine since He is lower in essence. They say that His and God, the Father’s parts in the metaphor should be equal. They think that Jesus should be the vine and God, the Father should be the root of the vine.
But this theory misses the point of Jesus’ allegory. The point is that God the Father cares for the Son and for those joined to the Son by faith.
God, the vine grower or gardener removes the fruitless branches and cares for all the fruit-bearing branches. Likewise, in our spiritual lives, Jesus removes all sins and anything which limits our fruitfulness. Sometimes it hurts when we experience pain and suffering, but it is God’s way of cleansing us to help us grow spiritually so we will bear more fruit.
In an address on the 2016 World Day of Prayer for Creation, Pope Francis suggested “care for creation” as a new work of mercy, complementing existing works.
Corporate works of mercy are those that tend to the bodily needs of creatures. These works include:
–feeding the hungry
–giving water to the thirsty
–sheltering the homeless
–visiting the sick
–visiting the imprisoned or captive
–burying the dead
The aim of spiritual works of mercy is to relieve spiritual suffering. These works include:
-instructing the ignorant
–counseling the doubtful
–bearing patiently with those who wrong us
–comforting the afflicted
–praying for the living and the dead
We cannot remain in union with Jesus without bearing fruit or carrying out His mission: of caring for all people by doing works of charity and mercy.
As St. John tells us in today’s Gospel, “Whoever keeps His commandments lives in God and God lives in him.” Amen