Fifth Sunday of Easter B
May 2, 2021
John 15: 1-8
By Rev. John Tran
We are so familiar the the image of the Father being the vine grower and Jesus being the vine. It is a nice image, but do we really think about what that means. You see, it is not just Jesus who is part of this vine. Though it is not stated directly, John implies that we are on that vine too. If not, why would Jesus bother to mention that unfruitful vines are cut off and thrown into the fire?
There is certainly a close connection between the vine grower and the vine, as anyone who works in a vineyard will tell you. The very health of the vine is dependent on the grower; if he does not prune the vines at the right time, the grapes will be sour or not there at all.
But, there is an even closer connection between the vine and the branches. We are those branches, so can you imagine how close Jesus has made us to him? We are so close that we share the sap of his life, and bear with Jesus the grapes. How much closer can we be to Jesus if we allow it?
There is always the chance that we do not accept Jesus invitation to be a branch on his vine. Look at the first reading, where St. Paul rejected for so long a time to become a branch on the vine, to become a disciple. He fought it in good faith; but finally Jesus made his presence felt in a way Paul could not refuse. And what works of discipleship were able to be done after Paul accepted being a branch, becoming a disciple.
Being a disciple requires two things. The first is to be a good listener. Paul could not hear the Word until he listened; neither can we. But, we do not only listen, though that comes first. The second thing we do is to act. We act when we show Jesus’ love to another. For the disciple, it is not good enough to say, “It is the thought that counts.” To be a disciple, to be so closely connected to Jesus that we share his life in the Eucharist, means that we must go beyond thought, and burst into action. And, that action is really divine - it is beyond anything we could do on our own.
And when we listen, pray and act in this way, we are not only closely united to Jesus, but also to each other as disciples. In the second reading, St. John reminds us that when we believe and act in the name of Jesus, “we love one another just as he commanded us.” And when we love one another, we began to love others who do not yet believe, or are not ready to commit to Jesus. It is our actions that God can use to draw them in, just as when Jesus called to Paul, the disciples in Jerusalem began to believe that Paul was really sent by God.
How am I showing that I am a true branch? In what ways do I make Jesus’ presence felt in my family? How willing am I to bring the Father’s Word to others by how I treat them? Am I willing to take part in community or parish efforts to help the poor, the victims of disasters or violence? What can I do, so that I do not wonder around angrily as St. Paul did before he met Jesus?
In First Things First, Roger Merrill relates the story of a busy man who decided to landscape his grounds. He contacted a talented woman with a doctorate in horticulture and experience in landscaping and expressed his desire to hire her to set a garden. But he emphasized to her the need to create a maintenance-free garden with automatic sprinklers and other labor-saving devices because he was too busy to spend much time on upkeep. But she said, “There’s one thing you need to deal with before we go any further. If there’s no gardener, there’s no garden!” — In today’s Gospel, Jesus asserts that he is the vine, we are the branches and his Heavenly Father is the gardener. And the Father who is the vine grower invites us to be co-workers in his garden. Then we can be a positive force in the garden the Father creates and maintains; an angry St. Paul becomes the branch and co-gardener that we know today.