Easter – 5th Sunday, Year B

John 15: 1 – 8

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Reflection, by Fr Aldo, sx

Upon reading this Gospel, some questions come to mind:

  1. Jesus is identified as the “true vine.”  Is there such a thing as a false vine? What/who is it?
  2. When did the vine grower (the Father) plant this vine? (Anything to do with the liturgical time we are in now?)
  3. Who are the branches?
  4. What are the two actions executed by the vine-grower (the Father)?
  5. Who is pruned, the Christian or the pagan?
  6. What does pruning do the person?
  7. What tools does the Father use to do the pruning?
  8. What would be the fruits produced by the branches that abide to the vine?
  9. What would be the bad leaves of sour grapes produced by the community that is not pruned by the vine-grower?
  10. What needs to be done so to remain united to the “true vine?”
  11. For whom are the grapes produced?
  12. What is the reward for the branches that produce good grapes?

Let us reflect upon few points!

The False Vine

In the book of the Prophet Jeremiah we find this complain from the Lord: Yet I planted you as a choice vine, from the purest stock. How then did you turn degenerate and become a wild vine? [Jer 2:21]

Also the Psalmist compares the deeds of the Lord with that of a vine-grower: You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. [Ps 80:8-9]

Isaiah represents the unfaithfulness of Israel in this way: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? [Is 5:1-4]

God had to abandon this vineyard and plant another one For Israel turned to be a useless vineyard.   And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! [Is 5:5-7].

Now, my friend, we can understand why Jesus said “I am the true vine.”

Now we see Jesus as the new vineyard, the real and authentic one, able to produce the fruit which the first did not: justice, righteousness and love. When was this new vineyard established? Oh! That was on Easter Sunday when the Father resurrected Jesus.

Branches Connected to the Vine

The vine is formed by stem and branches, and it is precisely the branches that produce fruit, not the stem. Jesus is the stem and the disciples are the branches. Thus, even in our times Jesus continues producing fruits that please the Father through the Christian communities around the world. However, in order that this may happen, it is necessary that the disciples remain connected to Christ otherwise they become dry and useless. A branch connected to the stem can even survive for a while and keep its leaves green, but it is just a matter of time, soon all signs of death will appear. The same thing happens to those who separate themselves from the community; soon they cease to live and to produce fruit.

The Pruning

The Fact that we are baptized does not put us automatically in the condition to produce fruit. The vine is a kind of plant that requires a lot of care. It must be pruned every year, and all branches must have their size reduced. Neglect the pruning means to lead the vine to become sterile.

In our communities we often find people who are like dry branches that only occupy space, hinder others and prevent the light to come in. But we do not condemn the whole Church because of these. In fact the stem is of good quality and many branches are properly connected and continue producing delicious fruits.

But the main purpose of this analogy is certainly not to encourage us to go around separating the bad branches from the good. But it does encourage us to see the dry and useless branches that are in each one of us. They are our unfaithfulness to the Gospel, our weaknesses, our sins. If we now see only the dry branches in other people, it means that our interpretation of the parable is disastrous.

The Tool for Pruning

The tool used forpruning is the Word of God. To be constantly in touch with God’s Word means allowing ourselves to be constantly pruned by it.

For Whom do We produce Fruit

The vine does not produce fruit for itself, but for others. And God is not like a land lord that harvests the product, verify its weight, sells, double check all the receipts, than goes back and pay those who worked. The branch feels fulfilled in remaining connected to the trunk producing fruit for others.  The branch feels satisfied for being alive enjoying each moment, seeing the sprout of the first shoots,  then leaves, then flowers, then fruits, and then the expressions on the faces of each one that will come to savor their fruit.

Real Christians do not produce good works so that they can be compensated by God in due time. They are like God who loves always without expecting anything in exchange.  The compensation which the disciples receive is the joy of realizing that the love of God is being manifested through them. This is the happiness of God that longs to reach its fullness in us: when it will totally happen, it will be paradise!

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