Fifth Sunday of Easter.
Gospel reading: John 15:1-8
Vs.1 Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Vs.2 Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.
Vs.3 You are pruned already, by means of the word I have spoken to you.
Vs.4 Make your home in me as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.
Vs.5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Vs.6 Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt.
Vs.7 If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it.
Vs.8 It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples
Historical situation of passage
This passage, The Vine and the Branches, is part of the last and farewell discourse Jesus had with his disciples(CH 13-17 of Johns Gospel). Each year the gospel readings on the 5th and 6th Sundays of Easter are taken from this long discourse. These verses 1-8 are part of a monologue where Jesus addresses those closest to him.
Where did this take place? This happened in the Upper Room where Jesus had just washed his disciples’ feet and re-joined them at the table.
When did this happen? This happened shortly before Jesus’ arrest. It is a hugely critical moment in his life. He is aware that his death is imminent and is concerned for those he is leaving behind – concerned for their future and that they will remain faithful to the values he has preached and lived: trust in the Father, compassion and mercy for the weak and vulnerable, leadership as service, and all of this in the context of community life.
Who was there? His closest disciples, those who had journeyed with him so far; those in whom he was about to entrust the future of the mission of the “reign of God” – for which he was prepared to lay down his life.
What happened? The metaphor of the vine and the branches refers to Hebrew Scripture (Psalm 80: 8-16 and Isaiah 5: 1-7) where Israel is portrayed as “the vineyard” and Yahweh as “the vinedresser”. Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promise to tend to and cherish his “vineyard”. Now Jesus uses the image of the vine and branches to clarify his understanding of himself, his relationship with the father and his desired relationship with his disciples. The hallmark of these relationships is love, trust and mutual dependence.
In the circumstance of his impending death Jesus was at pains to affirm his friendship and love for his disciples, to remind them of the essentials, and to share his deep conviction that even after his death they could continue to dwell mutually in one another, in love.
In these reflections and exhortations Jesus seeks to prepare his disciples for life after his death. He is encouraging them to faithfulness: to root themselves in him – his person and his project(compassion and mercy, defense of the poor, pursuit of justice and peace). In walking closely with him they have learned a lot “You are pruned already…” and by continuing to model themselves on him, and to root themselves in his spirituality and praxis, their lives too will be fruitful and fulfilling. Any other way is fruitless and futile. It is only living in Him, and through Him being present to the father, that the vine will realize its full potential.
Some suggested Guidelines for Meditation.
Taking it from the perspective of Jesus –
Can you remember the experience of parting with someone close to you (child, friend, co-worker) and as you did so sharing with them precious memories, wisdom and values, in the hope that it would stand the other in good stead going forward in life?
Or taking it from the perspective of the disciples – Perhaps we have had the experience of being with someone as he/she came to the end of their earthly lives, and as they did so, expressed their hopes for our future happiness and fulfilment, reminding us of our responsibilities, and encouraging us to remain faithful in love?
From either perspective –
Remember the deep words spoken on those occasions expressing closeness, intimacy, friendship. “I am the vine and you are the branches..” Stories shared that recalled the journey made together through the ups and downs of life, and the growth experienced, “You are pruned already by means of the words I have spoken to you.”
Remember the deep conviction that these bonds of love and friendship would survive any parting, even death itself, “Make your home in me as I make mine in you..”
Remember the challenge to be faithful to the values already lived together: faith in God – “the Vinedresser”; unity with Jesus, “ the Vine” (what he stood for, how He lived – with humility, gentleness, compassion, pursuit of justice, defence of the poor etc); solidarity with one another – with the other “Branches”. “As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but must remain part of the vine..”
Remember the expressed hope and prayer that lives going forward would be full, fruitful and fulfilled.. “It is to the glory of my father that you should bear much fruit.”