5th Sunday of Easter – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Whoever Remains in Me will Produce Much Fruit. ”
The First Reading tells us of Paul who, in spite of all difficulties, misunderstandings and suspicions, preserved his union with Christ and with the community of his disciples.
The Second Reading draws our attention to another point. Our faith is manifested by words of love. These ensure possession of the life of God in ourselves.
The main theme of the Gospel today is presented through the image of the ‘Vine’ and it’s ‘Branches’. We can produce works that are the fruit of the Spirit only if we remain with Christ.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
The Jewish community in Damascus who saw the upstart Christian followers as a threat had been expecting Saul to come and reassert the authority of the Temple with his mandate. Imagine their surprise when he showed up in town entirely blind, led by the men who had come with him from Jerusalem and then a Christian named Ananius visited with him, restored his sight and baptized him.
Saul, once the hope of the orthodox Jews, was now preaching Christ in the synagogues of Damascus! The Jews sought to kill him as a traitor and he fled to the Christians in Jerusalem. Were they happy to see him? No! They did not believe him anymore than they believed the reports they had heard about his so-called conversion.
On visiting Jerusalem, Saul (Paul) was at first regarded with suspicion and fear by the Jerusalem Christians. Before his conversion to Christ, Paul was a great persecutor, so it was no wonder that for quite some time the Christians were still afraid of him and did not trust him. If Paul had not been fortunate in gaining the trust and confidence of Barnabus, a Greek-speaking Jew born in Cyprus, chances are Paul would have been shunned on both sides.
Paul’s apostleship is never effortless. He is always anxious to prove that he is as good as the other apostles, that he preaches the same message and that the same Christ has chosen him. The need to overcome any suspicions about his authenticity makes Paul an energetic preacher, a tireless traveller, a fierce debater. He is no ‘yes man’ submitting to secular authority. Above all Paul’s great lesson for us is his abiding love for Christ and his Christian communities.
Conversion is not a simple matter of transferring allegiance. Any person who has ever made a major change and a brave ‘life choice’ can tell a similar story as well. You may change dramatically, but the people around you and sometimes family, may not adapt to or support your decision. Friends and loved ones are often the last people who will support your resolution. The conviction that you’re choosing the ‘Light’ may have to sustain you for a long time during your possible isolation. As a Christian, you are never alone; Christ is always at your side.
Psalm 22:26b-28, 30-32.
The Psalm for today is the conclusion of the Psalm Jesus prayed on the Cross. It fits the situation of Paul after his conversion since through him, people of many nations came to hear what God had done in Christ.
1 John 3:18-24.
John starts out the second reading by stating boldly, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and in action”. Lest anyone be disheartened by such a challenge, John quickly goes on, “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask.” To act out our love in real life is not easy; indeed it can be very difficult. God is always there to encourage us.
The faith of Christians is summed up very simply: “We believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and we love one another.” Our belief is in the human Jesus as well as the divine Son, who fulfilled the Messianic expectation of his people. Our mutual love will guarantee a Christianity that is active and caring.
Such belief and behaviour will assure the indwelling of God in the believer. This indwelling is a favourite doctrine of John. It is a reality known through the Spirit (Jn. 14:26). Even those who do not know Christ may be certain of possessing divine life in them if they do deeds of love towards others.
A well that is not maintained by an underground spring cannot go on giving fresh water. If there is water flowing, there must be a spring. Similarly if one does not have the Spirit of God, one cannot do works of love; if one does such works then it means that one is united to God.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus takes time out to say good-bye to his disciples. After a final meal with them during which he washed their feet, he told them that he would be betrayed by one of them.
The Gospel of today and that of next Sunday come from the part of this farewell address. Through the image of the ‘vine tree and its branches’ Jesus shows how important it is for his disciples to remain a part of him.
A young vine needs great care when it is cold so that it does not die. In times of war or violence it can be easily destroyed. This might be one of the reasons why it was considered a symbol of both peace and prosperity (Mic. 4:4). The disciples knew that for the branches to produce fruit well enough for winemaking two things were necessary. Firstly, they had to be united to the stem to receive nourishment from it. Secondly, the branches had to be pruned so as to produce better fruit and more of it.
Sometimes the opportunity can arise to do great good – but there is always a price to give up certain personal commitments and decide what is really important in order to be more fruitful. This process of pruning can be painful, but the life it yields is the life that God promised us. The fruitful as well as the unfruitful need cutting from time to time. It is essential for our spiritual growth.
This image of the vine is taken from everyday life and recalls how the Bible referred to Israel as a vine (Is. 5:1; Jer. 2:21; Ez. 15:6; Hos. 10:1; Ps. 80:9; Sir. 24:17). The way Jesus uses the image is different. Jesus is not just any vine. He is the ‘true vine’. He had earlier on called himself not only a shepherd, but ‘the good shepherd’ (Jn. 10:7-21).
Jesus stresses the importance of remaining united in him if our witness to the world is to have any effect at all. Just as a branch receives its sap from the tree if it is united to the tree, in the same way a follower of Jesus will receive life from him only if that person has a deep personal relationship with him.
Jesus’ farewell address insists on the importance of remaining in him. The words ‘to remain’ are repeated 10 times in this chapter. This emphasizes to the disciples that even in the physical absence of Jesus they are not deprived of his presence. They can remain in him if they accept his word and live by it.
Home is where you belong and where you are always welcome when you return. A Christian is as much at home with Christ as the branch is with the tree. The life of a disciple is rooted and grounded in Christ and always returns to Christ for meaning, sustenance and energy. Apart from me you can do nothing. Take a burning coal out of the fire and it loses its glow. Cut off a branch and it withers. When we call Jesus the ‘vine’ and ourselves the ‘branches’, we are saying that he is the source of life and all that is good in us.
The branch produces fruit to feed others. It ‘rejoices’ when it feels life flowing through itself, when it produces buds, then the flowers, the leaves and finally the sweet grapes that give pleasure and nourishment to all. The Christian does not do good works to get a reward. He is like his Father in heaven, who loves without expecting anything in exchange for his/her love. The reward of the disciples who are united to Christ is the joy of seeing God’s love manifesting itself through them. Nothing more and nothing less: this is the happiness of God, and when we shall reach the fullness…it will be paradise.
The best things in us – generosity, mercy, justice, forgiveness, and integrity – are our responses to his grace. The worst things in us – pride, greed, injustice, violence, spite and malice, dishonesty – come from our rejection of him for what he stands for. These are the things that must be pruned if we are to bear fruit. We cannot do it without his help.
Some people say, “I don’t have to lean on religion, I believe in myself and can think for myself”. Christianity is not a religion for losers. Christ gives us every reason to face life with strength
and confidence. He wants us to think for ourselves and take responsibility for our lives. Being on our own is not the same as going it alone.
The symbolism of the ‘Vine’ takes on added significance in the sacraments. Through the sacraments we become one in Christ, through the deep personal relationship we enjoy with him.
Without Jesus, the ‘true’ vine, we cannot be the person God meant us to be.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Saul, once the hope of the orthodox Jews, was now preaching Christ in the synagogues of Damascus! Were the Christians in Jerusalem happy to see him? No! They did not believe him anymore than they believed the reports they had heard about his so-called conversion. Are we able to maintain our union with Christ and his ‘mystical body’ the Church, despite the difficulties and misunderstandings our friends and families may have toward the Christian values we have chosen for our lives?
Mon. … Conversion is not a simple matter of transferring allegiance. You may change dramatically, but the people around you may not adapt to or support your decision. Friends and loved ones are often the last to accept your change. The conviction that you’re choosing the ‘Light’ may have to sustain you for a long time during your possible isolation. As a Christian, you are never alone; Christ is always at your side.
Tues. … What would the Church be today if Barnabas had not brought Saul into communion with the apostles, if he had not encouraged the conversion of the Gentiles, if he and Paul had not been willing to undergo the hardships of their mission? Would we have been converted as Christians?
Wed. … There is a constant underplay in John about the futility of verbal testimony alone. We cannot ‘merely talk about it’. We have to ‘become the word’ that we speak. If we are justified by faith alone, then our faith is evidenced by its incarnation “in deed and in truth”.
Thurs. … Jesus stresses the importance of remaining united in him if our witness to the world is to have any effect at all. Just as a branch receives its sap from the tree if it is united to the tree, in the same way a follower of Jesus will receive life from him only if that person has a deep personal relationship with him. We the branches must draw our strength from Jesus the ‘Vine’, through our love for each other and our active faith in our Lord.
Frid. … Do we fully comprehend from his ‘Word’ that Jesus is the vine, the source of ‘Life’ and all that is good in us? Through our sincere repentance and new commitment, do we allow the Father, the vinedresser to prune the branches that that are barren and fruitless that impact negatively in our lives?
Sat. … God wants us to be winners. He wants us to have the power to overcome every temptation and evil in our lives, to conquer every attack of Satan who wishes to destroy our loving relationship with him. When the ‘crunch’ comes, as it certainly will, we can meet it without fear and still produce fruit despite the seemingly impossible difficulties and circumstances placed before us if we are part of the true ‘Vine’.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that our vines be both nurtured and pruned as we experience the inevitable harvest of the ‘wild grapes’ of sin. In the hardships and trials in the imitation of the ‘Way’ of Jesus, grant us the grace to persevere in our efforts to become one with Jesus and bear the proper fruit that will lead to full discipleship and new life.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.