28th April 2024

Lectionary Readings: Acts 9:26-31; Ps. 22, 26-27. 28. 30. 31-32; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8

Theme: Takes away… prunes!

The gospel reading of today, John 15:1-8 highlights two things: 1. Jesus is the true vine, and ‘my Father’ is the gardener 2. ‘He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit: he prunes it.’ The last day is the big feast of the year with the celebration of the Jews’ “Passover”, a time of worship, remembrance and reverence and honouring God who had continually cared and provided for; and loved his people. In the gospel today Jesus compares himself to a vine, “I am the true vine.”  What can we learn from this image? The basic message contained in the symbolism of the vine is the necessity of remaining in Jesus. One must abide in Jesus as a branch remains on the vine to have life. Early Christian Liturgical texts take up this symbolism “We thank you, Our Father, for the holy vine of David, your servant which you revealed to us through Jesus, your Servant.” [Didache 9:2]. In the context of the Eucharistic setting of the Last Supper, we recognize that the ‘fruit of the vine’ is the sacramental means by which the disciples shared in the Lord’s sacrificial death and received a pledge of reunion with him.

      Jesus uses the experience of workingin and caring for vineyards to illustrate the ways of remaining in and with him. The image of the vine was a rich one for the Jews since vineyards were a common feature of the Palestinian landscape. It had religious connotations to it as well. Isaiah spoke of the house of Israel as “the vineyard of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:7).  Jeremiah said that God had planted Israel “as his choice vine” (Jeremiah 2:21). While the vine became a symbol of Israel as a nation, it also was used in the scriptures as a sign of degeneration. Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of Israel as a vineyard that “yielded wild grapes” (see Isaiah 5:1-7). Jeremiah said that Israel had become a “degenerate and wild vine” (Jeremiah 2:21). These texts may have provided the basis for the Johannine use of the image where Jesus is the vine. The Father is the vinedresser who prunes the branches. For the disciples the vine is a plant that needs a great deal of care. It must be pruned every year.  Vines characteristically have two kinds of branches, those that bear fruit and those which don’t.  The non-bearing branches must be carefully pruned back for the vine to conserve its strength for bearing good fruit. The Old Testament tradition spoke of pruning fruitless vines (Jer.5:10; Ezek 17:7). Good growth implies pruning and this gives a hint of the cross in the Christian life. The branches do not give but take the sap of life from the vine and in union with Jesus secure abundant fruit. Even the fruitful branch is pruned by the trials of life ‘to make it bear even more.

      Remaining in Jesus turns out to be the source of quite unexpected power ‘and you may ask what you will…’ so the attachment of the branches to the vine also means efficacious prayer. Abiding in Jesus is necessary for bearing fruit and answered prayer. Those not abiding in Him are cast forth as a withered branch and burned in a fire. This saying may have been formulated as a warning to those disciples who are falling away. Christians need to remain in Jesus through faith and then His presence will show itself in them through love. The depth of that relationship will determine how well Jesus’ love is manifested in their lives and so glorify the Father. Fruitfulness and discipleship go together; this is the union of mind and heart with Jesus, and the Father is glorified in the disciples.

For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Do you believe that Jesus is called the ‘true vine’.2. What must one do to be attached to the ‘true vine’?  

Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965), http://gcatholic.org/Catholic Study Bible (Senior D.), Brown, Fitzmyer, Murphy editors The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, New Jersey 1968)This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Dunhill Malunar Timkang
, Israel-Jerusalem, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2023


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