Fifth Sunday of Easter – Katy Webster, SNDdeN

Apr 24, 2024 | Gospel Reflections

April 28, 2024

John 15: 1-8

I am the vine, you are the branches, and my Father is the farmer.  We can picture this story.  The vine comes out of the ground, and the branches sprout, grow, grow and begin to bear fruit…. grapes, red, purple, green with juice and flavor.  The farmer is not standing still.  He’s looking, watching the vine, the branches, the fruits.  He sees some branches that are not bearing fruit, they are dry, without a sign of life.  They’re just getting in the way of the rest of the vine and the branches.  He has to cut it up and throw it away.  There are other branches that are not bearing fruit, but the branches are still green, a sign of life.  It also has branches bearing fruit, but the grapes are small and sour.  There are others who have grown too much, caught a disease or a fungus.  The farmer prunes, cuts the branches that are hindering the whole vine, impeding the development of good fruits.  In a few months, the farmer sees that the process has worked, with more air, with a part removed, the branch begins to sprout.  Fruits with more color and flavor appear.

I imagine that many people listening to this story of Jesus understood exactly what he was talking about when he spoke of the vine.  He makes a comparison: “I am the vine, you are the branches, and my father is the farmer.”  Who are “you”?  They are the listeners, the disciples, the followers, the community and us.  We are the branches.  There is no branch that survives on its own.  It has other branches, it has community.  In one way or another we are part of a community, or communities.  We are connected with Jesus.  “I am in you, you are in me.”  How?  Going back to the vine in the field, it is the sap that comes from the earth, passes through the vine and goes to the branches and to the fruit that sustains life.  What is this sap?  It is the Word of Jesus, read and lived.  It is his Word that he has spoken, explained, but lived…. He left the examples.  He showed how to live his word.  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  “As I do, so do you.”

It is this dynamic that we are called to live…. the Word of Jesus lived in the community nourishes us, and makes us nourishing.  What are the fruits that grow on our branches?  I suggest that among others, they are: love, solidarity, justice, listening, service, sharing, participation, forgiveness, respect and dialogue.  What we have in us that suffocates this lived Word, the farmer helps us to prune, to free ourselves so that the sap flows.  Our commitment to live in the community with joy flows.

What has to be cut up and thrown into the fire?  They are not people, but attitudes, behaviors that destroy the community, that do not allow us to live the Word of God with joy.  Selfishness, self-interest at the expense of the community, disrespect, resentment, revenge, inability to forgive, distrust, and violence of all kinds.

The Word of Jesus and the Word of the Pope also challenge us to look at the inhabitants of the planet and all life on this planet as our community, our Common Home.  There are predictions that our planet is in the ICU, and if there are no radical changes now, it will not resist.  The situation of conflict is a total tragedy… the war in Gaza, the war in Ukraine, armed conflicts in Congo, Nigeria, the killing of youth in Brazil by gangs and mass murders in many countries.  Where is the farmer pruning?  How can we respond to these situations? What needs to be cut away?  What needs to be  pruned?  How do we live the Word of Jesus at this moment where we are?

 

 

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

 

Meet Sister Katy Webster, SNDdeN

Katy Webster (known as Kátia in Brazil) entered Notre Dame at Ilchester, Maryland in 1976. After initial formation in the Baltimore-Washington area, Katy was missioned to Brooklyn, New York. She taught sixth graders for nearly 5 years at St. Catherine of Genoa School. In February, 1984 Katy was sent to Brazil by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, with the blessings of students and teachers of St. Catherine’s. Kátia lived in Maranhão for 9 years. Then in 1993, she moved to Pará where she has lived at Centro Nazaré on the Transamazon Highway, Altamira, Anapu and Itaituba. Kátia is currently back in Anapu. Kátia has lived with and among the people who struggle to live community while facing the greed of ranchers, loggers and lately the mining companies, and always learning far more than teaching. It is a blessed journey of faith and trust in the good God.