5th Sunday of Easter
2nd May 2021
Year B – Psalter week 1
This week’s Gospel, as well as next week’s, is taken from the conversations that Jesus had with his disciples right before the last supper. But we hear them now, during the season of Easter, because their message is so relevant to the meaning and understanding of the resurrection that we celebrated on Easter Sunday.
So, when Jesus would have had so much on his mind knowing that he was shortly to suffer and die, what was the message that was so important for the disciples, and therefore us, to know and understand?
Jesus is instructing his disciples about the importance of following his example of love and service, and to ‘continue to grow’ in love and understanding, by allowing him to guide and lead us through every situation in our lives.
In Baptism, each one of us was joined to the family of God by the Holy Spirit. We each become an important and a unique part of God’s family and his mission. The analogy that Jesus uses is a great one and tells of how Jesus sees our relationship with him – we are all branches of a vine, where Jesus is the vine that is looked after by God the Father as the vinedresser. Jesus therefore gives us life and makes us strong, and together the whole vine, which is mankind, can become fruitful.
If you re-read the gospel again you may notice that as Jesus encourages us to grow and be fruitful, he specifically uses the word ‘remain’ 6 times in just 8 verses. When Jesus calls us to ‘remain in his love,’ it can certainly be comforting, as it assures us that we are ‘already’ held in his love and a part of the vine that he represents.
But to ‘remain’ can also be especially challenging. For the vine to be fruitful it needs to change and grow and be pruned so that it continues to be life giving. We know that if a skilled vinedresser prunes and tends a vine removing the bits that are withered and unfruitful and helping the vine to grow in the right direction then, the whole vine benefits and much more fruit is produced. In life, it is us who need to be pruned and guided by God to learn to grow in the right direction here on earth, and, because we are human, that can be tough sometimes. We often do not want to change and grow in a different direction, especially if we think the direction we are going in is the right one.
As the gospel reminds us, we need to listen to God and be guided by him so that we know what we need to do so that we can be fruitful, and so benefit the whole vine. Belonging to the family of God is important and the first step, but it is our activity, what we choose to do, that gives our belonging its true purpose. If we stop and listen, allowing God to lead and guide us, for his greater glory, then Jesus promises that he will make us his disciples which is that long-term commitment to follow Jesus and through him to have a stronger relationship with the Father. Long-term relationships need time, patience, effort, renewing and even reconciliation and these are all the things that our Father in heaven has in abundance.
So, if we just take that extra step to ask God for his help in whatever situation we are currently in, and to become more fruitful in our lives, he will willingly, and lovingly, show us great patience and guide our efforts, renewing us and showing us his unimaginable love, mercy and understanding.
We cannot easily leap into discipleship; it is ok if it takes time. We need to learn to love and to grow gently, but we do need to try, if only by taking small steps remembering that discipleship is not a passive affair that will just happen. We need to give thought to how we love and serve others and to developing good habits.
These good habits can start with prayer and the Eucharist, through which Jesus dwells in us, remains with us, and transforms us so that we might bear fruit in his name, and through prayer for the poor and marginalised and all those in need.
Barnabas explained how the Lord had appeared to Saul on his journey
You, Lord, are my praise in the great assembly
1 John 3:18-24
The commandment of faith and love
I am the vine, you are the branches
Sunday Message and Look
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
Whoever remains in me bears fruit in plenty.