Fifth Sunday of Easter – Sister Eileen Cassidy, SNDdeN
May 2, 2021
John 15: 1-8
As I read today’s Gospel, I found myself listening to it as a disciple at the Last Supper, and then reflecting on it, post-Pentecost, in the light of all that had happened. I decided to write it as I experienced it.
As soon as Jesus began to talk about the vine, my heart sank a little. To us Jews this was all too familiar imagery. We know that the vine is one of Yahweh’s favourite images for ourselves, and that Yahweh is the perfect vine-dresser, taking every possible measure to help us become luxuriant with good fruit; and we know that this happens when we draw our strength and energy from him. We know, with considerable shame, that more often than not we were luxuriant with the wrong kind of fruit, and that this happened when we drew our strength and energy from sources other than Yahweh. At those points we ‘died’ as Yahweh’s vine, and the prophets let us know this in no uncertain terms. But we also know that Yahweh always picked us up and began again. Where would we be without his unconditional loving fidelity? I felt heavy. We are not exactly a shining example of Yahweh’s vine now. What would Jesus have to say?
As I reflect back in the light of all that has happened, I find the words of Jesus to be at once sobering, an invitation and filled with hope. They are sobering, in the sense that the imagery in our history expresses our reality, reminding us of our creaturehood, our vulnerabilities and tendencies, and our dependence on Yahweh. They are a welcome reminder.
The words are also an invitation. Jesus identifies himself as the ‘nurture’ that Yahweh provides: he is the life of the vine, the sap that pulsates through every part of the vine to produce good fruit. Yahweh’s vine-dressing is encapsulated in Jesus, his word and his way of life. I’m aware that we have lived and worked with Jesus, and through this shared life-experience have a relationship with him that is so life-giving. We know from experience that in him we can become the vine of which Yahweh can be proud, producing the fruits that he produced. All we need do is live with the strength and energy of our relationship with Jesus – both a challenge and a call!
When I think back, it feels as though Jesus was preparing us for dark days ahead, and was inviting us to meet those days with the strength of our mutual relationship. It sounds simple; it is attractive; and it generates a feeling of intimacy and shared strength. While aware of our weaknesses, I heard Jesus’ words as encouragement. We want to be the vine of which Yahweh can be proud, and Jesus told us to present our desires to Yahweh with confidence: Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, you will receive. This inspires confidence that the pattern of our past behaviour can be broken so that we can truly give glory to Yahweh by bearing good fruit.
We are now on the other side of those dark days, and are struggling to spread the Good News and support our fledgling communities amidst opposition from our own, just as Jesus did. But we are filled with hope. Using the imagery of the vine, it seems that Jesus was being ‘pruned’ during his life, with experiences of rejection, ‘testing’, false accusations, etc. But, despite his awareness of the likely cost, these seemed to strengthen his resolve which clearly came from his relationship with Yahweh and which carried him through the final pruning of death. We were in a kind of no-man’s-land after his death – unsure of ourselves, unsure of the future, but knowing that we couldn’t ‘let go’ of him, that we couldn’t go back to where things were before we met him. And then he came, relating to us as he had always done, meeting each of us where we were and entrusting to us the continuation of his work. Unbelievable! There are no words to describe the impact of his presence: our energy returned, or rather we felt his energy in us; we saw our difficulties as ‘prunings’ similar to his, and felt within us his resolve; we felt his presence in a way that defies description. We felt and feel that we were sharing the sap of the one vine. It feels that in Jesus we can become a vine of which Yahweh can be proud.
Possible Points for Reflection:
How has God been a vine-dresser for you? How has God nurtured you?
What is the sap that energizes you for life?
In what ways does Jesus inspire you?
In what ways have you been ‘pruned’ by life, and how have these shaped you?
John 15: 1-8
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
The Gospel of the Lord