SUNDAY, FIFTH WEEK OF EASTER
Reading 1: Acts 9: 26-31 Barnabas introduced the converted Paul to the Christians living in Jerusalem. They accepted him but the Jews tried to kill him.
Reading 2: 1 Jn 3: 18-24 If we wish to live as God wants, we must keep his commandments, especially the commandment to love one another.
Gospel: Jn 15: 1-8 Using the imagery of the vine and the branches, Jesus describes the intimacy of his relationship with us.
LET US LOVE IN DEED AND TRUTH
Some consider it a great burden to be a good Christian. God seems to ask so much – participation in the sacraments, other religious activities and devotions, faithfulness to various prayers and penitential practices, as well as reverence to a variety of religious articles such as rosaries, scapulars, relics of different saints, etc.
In what does the measure of the Christian life truly lie? In the life that is lived, in the daily choices that are made, in the love that is shared. And at the core of it all is the strength of one’s personal relationship with the Lord. All the above mentioned religious activities and aspects are beneficial to growth in the spiritual life. However, one’s “Christianness”, is not measured by external objects but by living a life of faithful commitment, of persevering in God’s love.
Many are familiar with the words often times attributed to St Augustine, “The measure of love is loving without measure.” Today’s second reading from the first letter of John, gives us another expression with the same message: “Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” One of the criteria by which we can determine if love is authentic, is in its relationship to the truth, and the coherence of our actions.
In the Gospel, Jesus offers what must have been a familiar image to his listeners, to explain what it means to live in his love, and how we can “measure” the love that gives us life. “I am the vine, and you are the branches… Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” This text comes from the moving and intimate dialogue that Jesus shares with his disciples at the Last Supper.
Until now (in John’s gospel), the images or metaphors that Jesus used to express the concept of receiving life from him were external actions: drinking the life-giving water (Jn 4); eating the bread of life (Jn 6). But now, in the context of this final supper shared with his disciples, he offers a much more intimate connectedness that expresses in a very deep way the necessity of living in constant union with him, as the branches are united to the vine and receive their life from it.
Certainly, the image of the vine is an allusion to the people of Israel. (cf. Ps. 8; Hos 10:1, etc.). Jesus takes that same image and applies it, we might say, to the life of each one of his disciples, as well as to the community of his followers. Those who hear his words are the new vine, the new People of God. The community will have life only in as much as it is fully connected to the source of life, the true vine. But as he says this, Jesus also says some things that are a warning to his listeners: “If the branches do not remain on the vine, they cannot give fruit.” Christ is our ‘life-line’, the only way we can truly find life, be fruitful, and give life to others. If the branches do not bear fruit, they are cut off from the vine. And to produce more fruit, the Father prunes the vine. These are powerful images of the relationship between the Father and Jesus, and with each of the branches, the members of the Church.
To be faithful as Christians, in the world as we know it today, requires a vital, life-giving experience of encountering Christ, as well as a sense of commitment to the cause of the kingdom. We may be occupied by many things, distracted by less important activities, involved in undertakings that make it difficult to remain “attached to the vine.” And yet what is essential is that we remain united with Christ. “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” (1 Jn 3:18).
Resp. Psalm: Ps 22: 26-28, 30-32 You are my praise, Lord, in the great assembly.
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