The 5th Sunday of Easter – 2 May 2021
Lectionary Readings: Acts 9:26-31; Ps 22:26-28, 30-32; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
Theme: Abiding in Jesus, abiding in love
The Gospel for this Sunday provides us with a metaphor of the vine and the branches, an image used in the Hebrew Scriptures. Examples can be found in Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 80 which appeals to God to save the “vine which your right hand has planted.” Taken together, this image paints the intimacy between the vine grower, God, and his people despite the difficulties. We notice with the image of the vine, the text shifts into the word “remain” or “abide” which appears seven times. Jesus might be stating a simple truth: that not to abide in him means to wither and not bear fruit. To abide in Jesus is a matter of life and death, bearing fruit or not at all. What does it mean to abide?
Curiously, the reading does not continue to verse to10 which is the key to understanding what it means to abide in Jesus. In verse nine it says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9). To abide in Jesus is to love. In love we find life. Love allows us creatures to exist, to love and bear fruit. This energy from God, which he gives out of his gratuitous and relentless love, makes those who abide in him bear much fruit.
This reminds us of the Shema, when we hear the words v’ahavta et Adonai Elohecha b’chol l’vav’cha uv’chol nafsh’cha uv’chol m’odecha (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks stated that Torah reveals to us this abiding love of God when he said, “Something implicit in the Torah from the very beginning becomes explicit in the book of Devarim. God is the God of love. More than we love Him, He loves us. ‘If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love [et ha-brit ve-et ha-chessed] with you, as he swore to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers (Deut 7: 12-13)’”. Torah is about love and this love abides in us if we abide in the Torah. In the beautiful book of Psalms, we find God’s abiding love when the Psalmist proclaims, “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his chesed, steadfast love, endures forever” (Ps 136:1). His love abides forever in us. If his love abides in us, we bear fruit. It is not that we first bear fruit for his love to abide in us. His love is the first love, as Henri Nouwen says. His is a love that abides even before the bearing of fruit. It is because of that abiding that we can bear fruit.
It is no wonder that this passage is chosen for our celebration of Easter. In our celebration of Easter, we celebrate the love that abides with us even beyond death: a love that abides and defeats sin. Our world is now radically shifting. We notice a radical disillusionment to stay, to remain, and to abide especially in our human relationships, more so when our relationships do not seem to “bear fruit.” We have become too impatient to abide and remain in love with persons who are particularly difficult to love. Jesus gives us a sure sign that to flourish, we must abide in him because he abides in us. This Love that abides is the love that bears fruit. If we abide in Jesus, we are not only abiding in him and he in us, we are now empowered to love and abide in others, and with others, especially our neighbors who are in need: the poor, the needy, and the stranger.
For Reflection and Discussion:  How do we feel God’s constant abiding presence in our lives?  What makes it difficult for us to stay and abide in and with others?
Bibliography: http://rabbisacks.org/covenant-conversation- 5772-ekev-the-morality-of-love/ Jonathan Sacks, “The Morality of Love” August 6, 2012
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
John Paul A. Bolano, MA, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumnus 2017