Homily (Reflection) for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (B) (29th April, 2018) on the Gospel
Acts 9:26-31;Ps 21:26-28.30-32 (R.V. 26);
There is a story about a missionary priest who had a small electric plant in the central mission where he lived. One day some natives from an outlying mission visited the priest and noticed an electric light hanging from the ceiling of his living room.
Before they left, one of the visitors asked if he could have one of those bulbs. “The priest, thinking he wanted it for a sort of trinket or bauble, gave him a burned-out bulb. On his next visit to the outlying mission the priest stopped at the hut of the man who had asked for the bulb. Imagine the priest’s surprise when he saw the bulb hanging from an ordinary string. He had to explain that one had to have electricity and a wire to bring the current to the bulb” (Fuller, G. (2010). Stories for all seasons. Mumbai: St Pauls, pp. 72-3).
Topic: Jesus is the vine.
In today’s gospel, Jesus explains the type of bond between him and his followers (Christians). He likens it to the relationship between the vine and the branches – Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches, cf. Jn 15:5. In the same vein, Saint Paul writes about Christ and his church in these words: “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent” (Col 1:18; cf. 1Cor 12:27).
The gospel reads further, “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit” (Jn 15:2). Bearing fruits seems to be very central in today’s gospel. Reading beyond today’s gospel, we see Jesus reiterates the same point: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide ...” (Jn 15:16). Again, for Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans, the whole essence of being Christians is bearing fruits for God, cf. Rom 7:4.
Jesus goes further to explain how one can bear the desired fruits because one can bear fruits for destruction, cf. Rom 7:5:
Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned (Jn 15:4-6).
We also read from the Psalms that those who delight in the law of the Lord and who also meditate on them are likened to “... trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper” (Ps 1:3). Psalm 92 also reads:
The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap (Ps 92:12-14).
Saint Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is very essential for all: “to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). And again, for Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians, good works can better be seen as deposits into one’s eternal account, cf. Phil 4:17.
Saint Paul rightly asks: “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?” (1Cor 9:7). And we also read in the book of Proverbs: “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honoured” (Prov 27:18). Simply put in the New Testament: “... labourer deserves his food” (Matt 10:10; Lk 10:7; 1Tim 5:18).
In the book of Genesis we read: “... God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27; cf. Gen 5:2). Hence prophet Malachi asks: “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” (Mal 2:10). In line with this, God is rightly called our Father, cf. Rom 1:7; 1Cor 1:3; 2Cor 1:2; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 2Thess 1:1. But through our first parents, we “... sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). God (the vinedresser) “... sent his Son as the Saviour of the world” (1Jn 4:14).
God who is both our creator and our saviour expects us to glorify Him by bearing fruits, cf. Jn 15:8. Hence, He asks through Prophet Malachi: “A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honour? And if I am a master, where is my fear? ...” (Mal 1:6).
We must remember that the burned-out bulb the priest gave to one of those who visited him did not give him light because among other things there were neither electricity nor wire. Similarly, one must abide in Jesus to bear good fruits. Again, everyone must be rewarded according to the fruits each bears, cf. Jer 17:10; 21:14; 32:19. Abiding with Jesus makes one ever fruitful, cf. Jer 17:8. And we must also be conscious of the words of Jesus: “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3:10; cf. Lk 3:9).
Bible Reading: Jas 1:19-27; Rom 2:12-16; Col 1:3-65; Gal 5:16-26; Matt 24: 45-51; 25:14-30; Ps 1:1-6.
Thought for today: Just reflect on your attachment to Christ: withered, withering, or still attached to Jesus?
Let us pray: Our Father, you are the vinedresser. Although we have failed to bear the desired fruits in so many ways, we ask you not cut us off from you but prune us to make bear fruits – Amen.
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