Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
Jesus said: I am the real, the true, the actual and the genuine vine. There are many counterfeit vines in this world that we can attach ourselves to. The Greek word translated ‘true’ in that sentence means ‘real; actual; not counterfeit, but genuine’. In speaking to the eleven remaining disciples in the upper room, Jesus chose the metaphor of a vine because of its manifold significance. A vine planted in the ground speaks of the humility of one who came in the form of a man planted in the earth. The figure of a vine pictures an intimate union with branches that are totally dependent upon it. A vine is a classic illustration for showing fruit-bearing as evidence of spiritual productivity. Jesus spells out the meaning of the parable-allegory explicitly in terms of love. As the branches of the vine draw their nourishment from their union with the trunk which in turn draws its nourishment from the care of the vine-dresser, so we experience love which comes from its original source, our God, through Jesus our Lord. In an easily-understood image, he is explaining to us what our relationship with him can be like and indeed should be like. He compares himself to a tree, and actually to the trunk of the tree. The cultivator of the tree, the one who gives it life, is the Father God. The followers of Jesus are the branches.
Today we also celebrate the Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day generally remembers the motherhood and the positive contributions of mothers to society. It falls on the second Sunday of each May. It is the result of a campaign by Anna Marie Jarvis, who, following the death of her mother on May 9, 1905, devoted her life to establishing Mother’s Day as a national, and later an international day. Commenced as a personal festival of ‘Mother’s Day’, it has become a part of our culture now. What it offers is opportunities to honour and show our appreciation for our flesh and blood mother – the one person who has stood by us through thick and thin. We have one example of Mary who stood by Jesus at the Cross.
Our world today is filled with energy and change. We look for new things and things that please us and make us look for something more attractive. That is how the world of today sees to situations and events. A person with great amount of energy is great because he can perform things. And it is the branches which bear the fruit. If a branch does not bear fruit, it is simply cut off from the main stem. It is no good; it is just draining life from the trunk without giving anything in return. The vinedresser was the one who cared for the vines in a vineyard. As a farmer, he was responsible to cut off the branches that bore no fruit because they tended to sap the energy from the fruit- bearing branches. That increased the productivity of the other branches. The vinedresser also constantly pruned the branches that could bear fruit to enable the vine to concentrate its energy on maturing so that it could bear more fruit. The one who cared for the vine chopped off the branches that bore no fruit and threw them away. The vine’s soft wood made it useless–it couldn’t even be burned as firewood. Therefore, the branches of the vine were thrown away and consumed in a bonfire.
The Father has twofold work: His work of punishing and secondly, his work of pruning. He takes away the branches that bear no fruit. Those branches are piled together and burnt. However in the Christian understanding every burning is for purification and therefore will not allow a person to be destroyed rather allow him to be purified. The work of pruning is the second work of the Father which is a continual process. The owner prunes the branch so that the wastage is removed and the branch bears more fruit, in the context of spirituality to be more mature. But Jesus tells the disciples that they are pruned already through his word. His word, the word of God has the pruning power to yield more fruit. Jesus summarized how we can bear much fruit. He said that those who abide in him and him in them bear much fruit. In other words, those who embrace a spiritual life by seeking to grow in holiness, in them Jesus dwells. The relationship that we should have with Jesus is compared to the branch of a vine. While the vine takes its nourishment from the ground, the branches receive their food and water from the vine. The vine is the source from which the branches receive their living water that gives them life and makes them bloom. If the living water was to be cut off from the branches, they would dry up, die and decay.
In the First Reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how St. Paul and the disciples of Jesus were striving to bear much fruit. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem to join the disciples, they were already shining in the fruit of the Spirit but avoided Paul with great fear. They knew that he had a reputation of persecuting the Christians. Only Barnabas came forward to his rescue and took Paul to the apostles and explained to them how Jesus had spoken to Paul and how Paul himself had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. This is how Barnabas testifies for Paul to win over the cordiality of the Apostles. Now Paul is able to do his ministry but due to the threats he is sent to Tarsus. There was the deep bond between the disciples with Christ and his mission as their centre and they supported each other.
In the Second Reading from the First Letter of John, we have the command to love in truth and in action. Words or speech are not sufficient and they are not love. Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active. True love shines in truth and action. True love shines in the keeping of promises that have been made. Then we come to know the truth by listening to our hearts. We may call the heart the guardian angel or the inner voice or an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. However in the new spiritual life that we received through faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism our heart is our new life in Christ. Our new life in Christ encourages us to shine in the fruit before God. If we walk in the fruit of the Spirit, our spiritual life does not condemn us. Because we obey His commandments and do what please Him, we can ask God for anything and we will receive it. And what are those commandments? They are basically two: “That we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ” and “That we love one another as he told us to”.
Through our actions, we are to bear much fruit as disciples of Jesus. Through our faith in Jesus and our love towards others, the Heavenly Father is glorified. When worldly children are well behaved, through their actions, their parents are praised. When we as Christians bear much fruit, through our living faith in Christ, God the Father is glorified. By the power of the Holy Spirit, let us go forth this week and glorify the Heavenly Father through our living faith in Jesus Christ.
Fifth Sunday of Easter: May 10, 2009. Mother’s Day
Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8