Readings and Reflections Today April 29, 2018 Fifth Sunday of Easter

Roman Catholic 
Diocese of Peterborough

Reading 1ACTS 9:26-31

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples,
but they were all afraid of him,
not believing that he was a disciple.
Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles,
and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord,
and that he had spoken to him,
and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.
He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem,
and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.
He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists,
but they tried to kill him.
And when the brothers learned of this,
they took him down to Caesarea
and sent him on his way to Tarsus.

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.
It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

Responsorial PsalmPS 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32

R. (26a) I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the LORD.
The lowly shall eat their fill;
they who seek the LORD shall praise him:
“May your hearts live forever!”
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.
All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the LORD;
all the families of the nations
shall bow down before him.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.
To him alone shall bow down
all who sleep in the earth;
before him shall bend
all who go down into the dust.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.
And to him my soul shall live;
my descendants shall serve him.
Let the coming generation be told of the LORD
that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born
the justice he has shown.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
R. Alleluia.

Reading 21 JN 3:18-24

Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.

AlleluiaJN 15:4A, 5B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord.
Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

JN 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”


The Vine

Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 29, 2018

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. (John 15:1)”

If Jesus is a carpenter, why does He speak about the vine in today’s Gospel? Does He have the competency to draw wisdom from a field that is not His expertise? We recall that Jesus grows and lives in Galilee, and in this northern region of Israel, the land is relatively fertile and agricultural industry is thriving. Some archeological findings suggest that in Nazareth, despite being a small village, the community members are engaged in small time farming, grapes press, and winemaking. A young Jesus must have been involved with this farming activities and perhaps even helped in a nearby vineyard. Thus, Jesus does not hesitate to teach wisdom using the imageries coming from the agricultural settings, like parables related to the vineyard (Mat 20:1-16), planting seeds (Mat 13:1-9), wheat and weed (Mat 13:24-30), and harvest (Mat 9:35).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that He is the true vine and His Father is the vine grower. Like Jesus, the disciples are certainly familiar with grapes plantations and wine production. In fact, for the Jews, drinking wine is not mere merriment, but also an essential part of their ritual Passover meal in which they relive the experience of liberation from Egypt. Thus, the images of the vine, vine grower and vine branches are not only familiar to the disciples, but turn out to be potent means to deliver Jesus’ teaching.

The context of this teaching is Jesus’ Last Supper, and we imagine that as Jesus teaches this truth, the disciples are enjoying their meal and cup of wine. As they are drinking the wine, it is at the back of the disciples’ mind that the high-quality wine comes from superior-quality grapes, and these grapes are produced by the best vineyard with its healthy vine and hardworking vine growers. From the taste of the wine, one can assess not only the value of the wine but also the entire production, from the vineyard (viticulture) to the winemaking (vinification). Through this imagery, Jesus has assured His disciples that He and His Father have done their share in making the branches fruitful, and now it is the free choice of the disciples to bear the fruits. As branches, the only way to produce fruits is to remain united with the true vine.

The instruction of Jesus to remain in Him seems not difficult to follow. But, just hours after the Last Supper, Jesus will be arrested, and the disciples immediately forget everything that Jesus says. Judas betrays Him, Peter denies Him, and the rest run away and hide. Only a few disciples remain with Him, some women disciples, the Beloved Disciple, and His mother. The point is clear now. It is easy to remain with Jesus when things are easy and convenient, but when the things get tough, the disciples are facing an existential question whether to remain in Jesus or to abandon Him.

The question is now given to us. When our lives become desert-like and do not yield expected fruits, are we going to remain in Jesus? A friend told me how he was initially excited to serve the Church by joining an organization. Yet, after some time, he got frustrated by scandalizing attitudes of some members. He realized that the group was no different with other organizations that were plagued by gossips, intrigues, and factionalism. Naturally, I advised him to leave the group and look for a better group, like the Dominicans! Yet, he chose to remain and said to me that this difficult group provides him an opportunity to love Jesus more. Then, I realize that the mere fact that he stays, he has unexpectedly borne much fruits: patience, mercy, and understanding.

The same question now is addressed to us. Shall we remain in Christ in challenging times? Do we stay even when we do not feel the fruits? Do we remain faithful till the end?

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

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