5th Sunday of Easter, 2021 Year B

My Dear People,

    “I am the true vine” says Jesus, revealing the communion between Himself and the disciples to be the inner reality of the Church.  The vine is a biblical image for Israel as the people of God-- “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.  The people of Judah are His cherished plant.” (Isa 5:7; see Ps. 80:9). Because He is totally obedient to the Father’s will, as the true vine, Jesus is the perfect realization of Israel’s vocation to be God’s obedient people.  The disciples who live in communion with Jesus are the branch united to the vine (15:5) and thus summoned to practice the same obedience (15:10).

The Father’s identification as the vine grower is likewise recited in Scripture. Both the Psalms and Isaiah depict the Lord as the vine’s owner, who plants it and cares for it (Ps. 80:9-12; Isa. 5:1-7). But when the vine produces the opposite of what the Lord desires and expects—say, sour grapes instead of edible—He allows His vineyard to wither.   (Isa. 5:2-7).  The Father wants to cultivate a fruitful vine, which produces love (see Isa. 15:16-17). The disciples who do not bear fruit, who do not perform works of love, will be cut from the vine by the Father.  The disciples who do produce works of love,  the Father  prunes so they can bear even more fruit.   The verb for “prune” also means “cleanse,” and the Father has already been at work in Jesus’ disciples, purifying them through His word, which they have embraced and to which they continually yield (8:31). But for branches to bear fruit, they must stay attached to the vine. If the disciples are to produce works of love, they must remain in communion with Jesus: “Remain in me, as I remain in you”. 

Jesus clarifies the relationship: “I am the vine; you are the branches.” Just as Paul teaches the Church is the body of Christ (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:12-27), John teaches us the vine and the branches signify Jesus and his disciples are united to each other in a vital union, the Church.   Paul emphasizes the unity of the Church as a body with a diversity of members and roles.  John emphasizes the flow of life and power from Jesus, the vine, to his disciples, the branches.   Jesus is the indispensable source of life and empowerment for his disciples, the one upon whom they must constantly and radically depend—"Without me you can do nothing”. The disciples’ communion with Christ opens them up to the Father’s care and pruning, which will bear much fruit.  Branches, however, that are cut off from the vine, their life-source, can only wither. Disciples who do not remain in communion with Jesus are cut off from the source of spiritual life.  All that remains for such spiritually dead branches is to be cast into the fire.

The communion between Jesus and his disciples-- (If you remain in me and my words remain in you) enables them to petition the Father with confidence their request will be answered. As discussed previously (14:13-14), to pray in communion with the risen Jesus means to be in communion with his total love and obedience to the Father. It is through prayer that the Father’s will is accomplished in the world and in our lives. Such prayer is anticipated by the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, who professed three times: “Everything the Lord said, we will do” (Exod. 19:8; see 24:3,7). It is the prayer of the Virgin Mary, who completely consents to God’s will for her, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:28). It is the prayer that Jesus himself offers to the Father in Gethsemane, “Not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:26), and then teaches His disciples to pray, “Your will be done” (Matt. 6:10).

The Father brings people into communion with Himself through His Son (6:44).  Through His communion He enables them to produce the fruit of love (15:2). Through these divinely assisted acts of love, the disciples manifest and deepen their communion with Jesus and the Father. The Father is glorified, revealed, and praised by the lives of Jesus’ disciples, who manifest the Father’s transforming love at work in them through their relationship with Jesus. 


Fr. Vincent Clemente


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