Read 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... Read More…
Meet Sister Marie Prefontaine
Sr. Marie Prefontaine, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, holds a BA in Theological Studies from Emmanuel College, Boston; a MA in Religious Studies... Read More…
In the Farewell Discourse of John’s Gospel (Jn 13-17) Jesus’ words offer a vision of the new life for all who are his disciples. The heart of this vision of new life and the heart of John’s Gospel are the community’s love for one another. Unlike the numerous ethical teachings in the GospelPage of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the ethic of Jesus in John’s Gospel has one focus, one command - to love one another. This language of love has a quality of fullness, rather than emptying, of abundance rather than denial. In the Gospel of John, a person gives out of the abundance of her/his love, not out of self-denial. The Gospel of John speaks about this abundance of love and the sharing of this love as the primary characteristic of discipleship, faith and Christian community.
Abundance and sharing of love are themes described by the metaphor used in this Sunday’s Gospel - the vine and branches (Jn 15:1-11). In this discourse, Jesus paints a picture of the Christian community as a vine with its branches. Jesus is the vine, and those who love Jesus are the branches. God is the vine grower, who alone trims, prunes and tends the vine. This Christian community, portrayed by a vine and its branches, is called to be a community of interrelationships, mutuality and indwelling. Central to these relationships in mutuality is a sense of abiding. To abide is to remain, to be constantly present. “To abide,” used ten times in this brief passage, is the verb John employs to describe Jesus’ relationship to God (15:10) and to the community (15:4, 9) as well as the community’s relationship to Jesus. Individuals in the community prosper and grow only insofar as they recognize their intertwining as branches on the vine whose fruitfulness depends on each one abides with others in Jesus’ love. The mutuality envisioned in the vine metaphor is the sign of the work of God: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).
Another characteristic of this metaphor speaks to the identity of the Christian community, the Church. On a vine, all branches together form one root, and as only in their common rootedness can they bear fruit. Fruitfulness belongs to God alone (15:2), not to any of the branches. The future of the Christian community, the vine, is entrusted to God, not to any of the branches. God is the vine-grower, and all branches are equal before God, in a radically non-hierarchical vision of love and abundance. Jesus is the Vine of the Christian community out of, into, and around which all the branches grow.
This metaphor of the vine and branches is also a powerful image of our Church community: the center vine out of which the branches grow is identifiable, but the mass of intertwining branches is indistinguishable. All members grow out of the same vine and are tended equally by the one vine grower. In their mutuality, Jesus and God anticipate the possibilities of life for the Christian community. Let us as the Community of Church abide in this love for one another.