5th Sunday of Easter Year – B
Acts 9:26-31, 1.Jn.3:18-24, Jn.15:1-8
THE STORY is told about a mother who said: “My married life has been like the mysteries of the rosary. When we were newly married, it was joyful.
When my husband’s vices came out, it was sorrowful. When he died, it was glorious. And now I am single again, it is light and luminous!”
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells His disciples, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” This is the secret of perseverance and endurance: To remain in God, no matter what.
Whatever “mysteries” we go through in life, if we hold on to the Lord, we will continue to live, grow and, yes, bear fruit.
It is easy to hold on to the Lord in joyful, glorious, and light moments, but all the more we should hold on to Him on our sorrowful moments. In fact, there’s only the Lord to really hold on to at such moments.
Instead of letting go of God, we must hold on to Him and not succumb to misery, despair and hopelessness.
It is not enough to just exist. We must grow, and persist. Somebody once compared a Christian to a basketball player.
“To be a good player,” he said, “it’s not enough that you know how to dribble or avoid getting fouls. What matters most is to be able to shoot, to make points and to be productive.”
Yes, we must remain in God and bear fruit. We must not just be living branches. We must be fruit-bearing branches. For those who are still alive, and who perhaps are living abundant lives, the question remains:
Am I living a fruitful life? Have others benefited from my life? Ask anyone who has been “pruned,” and he/she will tell you how difficult it is to accept it in the beginning.
“Why?” “Why me?” “Why now?” These are the questions that are usually raised, and many times, there are no answers. Right away, anyway.
And so, one can put up a fight and say “Unfair!” or one can stay still and say, “OK, Lord, I trust you. Prune me!” The sooner we say the latter, the sooner the healing and the moving on.
“Why me? I am a good person? Why do I receive these trials and sufferings?” Perhaps the answer to this age-old question can be answered by Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel:
“He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit.”
Last Sunday, we heard of the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd. Today, we hear another image of Jesus, that is, the vine.
The Old Testament literature often speaks of the people of Israel as God’s vineyard producing sour grapes because of their infidelity. (Is.5; Jer.2:21; Ez.15)
When Jesus applies this as his personal image, he contrasts Himself to Israel’s infidelity; he affirms his faithfulness in bearing the fruit of God’s work. God finds true fidelity in Jesus a fidelity which culminated in his self-donation on the Cross.
Let us try to reflect on what this image of the vine can help us in living out the Christian life that is expected of us. First, the image of vine-branches demonstrates what the Church should be.
As a Body of Christ, the members should remain united with their head who is Christ. The Christian’s union with Christ should be seen as something “personal”.
Second, the fruit of the vine-branches relationship is intimacy. Intimacy is something we can gain in this kind of relationship.
Intimacy suggests knowledge about the “other,” so much so that one can speak on behalf of the “other.” We also have heard this in last week’s gospel wherein Christ said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
Intimacy demands a quantity of time, as well as a “quality time.” We can only be intimate with Christ if we search for him regularly, and likewise, if we seriously spend time with him in prayer and in reading the word of God.
Third, if we reflect further, the word “abiding” is significant to our reflections. Abiding is “dwelling” or “living” in the other.
We can find this in the life of the Trinitarian God, in which one person dwells in the other. For instance, Jesus once said, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”
In the same way, our relationship with Christ asks for indwelling. We should live in Christ and, equally, Christ should live in us. The second reading gives us a form of indwelling: love.
When we show love to our brothers and sisters, God can be seen in us because of the fact that God is love.
This vine-branches relationship that we have reflected so far can be applied to marital relationship. The man and wife are called to live as one.
A key to its fulfillment is, first, to live in intimacy which brings knowledge for each other. As years go by, each spouse should have known each other more deeply.
If a wife comments this way, “Actually, my husband remains a mystery to me,” this shows that intimacy is not in a picture.
But if she says, “I don’t react that much because I know that in five minutes he would calm down,” that is an index of intimacy. Moreover, husbands and wives should “dwell” in each other so that they could live as one.
This takes a long process though. When both husband and wife have already lived with “one mind and one heart”, there the intimacy and indwelling happens.
Even a well-pruned branch cannot bear grapes unless it abides in the vine, drawing water and minerals from the main trunk and transporting food prepared in the leaves to the main trunk and to the roots.
Jesus reminds us that we cannot bear fruit either, unless we abide in him just as he abides in us. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
What Jesus means is that by abiding in him we will bear much fruit, and that apart from him we can do nothing. Abiding in Christ means that God has to be inside us and we have to be inside God.
We abide in Christ by drawing near to God and by experiencing His being near to us, or by living every moment as he has commanded us to do, with the radiant presence of Christ all around us.
This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is maintained by the spiritual helps common to all the faithful, chiefly by active participation in the Liturgy.
Those of us who do not abide in Jesus will wither and be thrown away, just as withered branches are thrown into the fire to be burned. Fruit-bearing in Christian life is not just of our own making. It is the sign that Christ is working in us and through us.
Let us abide in Christ and let Christ abide in us: The four Gospels teach us how to become true disciples of Jesus and how to abide in him as braches abide in the main trunk of the vine and draw their life from the vine.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.