Reflection for Sunday – April 28, 2024

Readings: Acts 9: 26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8 
Preacher: Cathy Kamp

Well into the Easter season, the Gospel of John—and Jesus— offer the gift of the true vine on this fifth Sunday: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” These are words spoken by Jesus to prepare the disciples for his impending death and the time when he would no longer be physically with them. He assures them with the words, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” while also warning them that unless they stay connected to him, “remain” in him, they will surely wither away.

What an incredible message for the disciples to hear; what an incredible message for us to ponder in our hearts today. These words were not spoken on any random day in the life of our Lord. They are part of the Last Supper discourse. The passage is one of several that come in between the washing of the feet in John’s Gospel and the arrest of Jesus. This is one of the key messages that Jesus wanted to leave with his closest followers as death drew near.  He is the true vine, the source of life and love, and his desire is that the Apostles then and we today will remain with him and grow as strong branches ready to produce the fruit of his life and love.

We could argue that the parable of the vine and the branches offers pretty images but not much clarity about how we are to remain with Jesus or how we are ultimately to bear good fruit. But the roadmap comes just a few lines later in the Gospel we will hear for the sixth Sunday of Easter: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”

This is how we are to remain as strong branches sharing life in Jesus: to love each other. This is a powerful message for the world where we dwell today. There is so much emphasis on being independent and self-sufficient. Yet, we cannot truly share in loving relationship with anyone unless we are willing to dwell in their presence and to open ourselves to the risky business of being vulnerable. Truly remaining not just with Jesus but with each other is challenging. When Jesus instructs us to bear fruit by our love, it can mean going way outside our comfort zone—to care for the poor or to enter into the struggles and messiness of family members who are difficult to love.

When we do dare to branch out in love, we have the assurance that the source of life and love goes with us: Jesus, the true vine. In the business of day-to-day life, how do we stay mindful of Jesus dwelling within each of us? Taking the time to pray and be still in the presence of God is a great place to start. I find it hard to just be still and silent so I usually start my day with coffee and the readings for the day and a few different meditations. Still, it requires intentional effort to connect to the presence of Jesus even in stillness and quiet, and to not get distracted.

Remember also that this parable and commandment to love another are given to us in the context of the Last Supper. We receive the Real Presence of Jesus every time we celebrate the Eucharist and receive the Body of Christ. In the context of the Eucharist, we are again sent forth to be the Body of Christ. Today’s Gospel concludes in a way similar to every Mass: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” Remain in him, remain with one another!

Cathy Kamp
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