I apologize for the late date of this posting. I realized this morning when I got Fr. Jim’s homily for this week (which I will post here shortly) that I had completely forgotten the one from last week….Reyanna
•Acts 9: 26-31 • 1 John 3: 18-24 • John 15: 1-8•
Scripture Readings: Fifth Sunday of Easter
For weeks the sun has been doing its work and once again new life has emerged all around us . As the sap moved up and out along the tree branches just outside my windows, I have watched the miracle once again. Barren branches are now dressed with fresh green leaves – signals of new life. I pretend I can hear them shouting — Christ is Risen! (Truly he is Risen!)
Our gospel text last Sunday was John’s simile of the Good Shepherd. With good reason we speak of the Risen Christ as “the Good Shepherd.” However in my homily I suggested we consider what that simile implies about the Gracious Mystery we name God. We did so using the disenchanted world in which we live as the background for our reflection.
I intend to do the same with the simile of today’s gospel text. In this Secular Age in which we live, it is almost fashionable if not compulsory for people to say, “I do not believe in God.” Well, I do believe in God! It seems to me that those who claim they do not believe in God, deny or reject the same stereotypical and anthropomorphic images of God that I also deny or reject.
So together let’s also consider the simile of the “true vine” from a different perspective. “I am the vine.” “My Father is the vine grower.” “You are the branches.” This simile is simple although it can seem complex. It is about life! So lets keep it simple. In this simile the phrase “remain in” is repeated eight times. “Remain in!” This simile is about relationship. It is about intimate
relationship between God — “the vine grower,” Jesus — “the vine,” and us — “the branches.”
John’s Jesus is telling us the Gracious Mystery we name God is both source and sustainer of the life that flows within us. God is not far off up there somewhere watching the world evolve. God is intimately in us, and the entire, gigantic, evolving cosmos. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself. It must remain part of the vine. Branches that do not remain part of the vine are barren and wither. I watch the fresh buds on the trees outside of my windows and the simile makes great sense.
The four evangelists agree that a Jewish man named Jesus of Nazareth persistently related to God as “Father.” Remember the text last week. “The Father knows me.” “The Father loves me.” He conversed with God as “Father” and taught others to do the same. He lived out of the conviction that this Gracious Mystery, this active, unconditional, overflowing love – is source of all
that is, guarantees life, and transforms death into life. Such love cannot be subdivided or diminished. So each and all are loved as though there were no others.
The existential reality experienced by all who encountered Jesus in any way was unconditional love and compassion. That is why he was raised from the state of death by a power beyond himself. Our affirmation that Christ is Risen! (Truly he is Risen!) is not about his corpse reawakening. It is an affirmation that because of how he lived, Jesus was raised up and assumed into the source and sustainer of life – the Gracious Mystery we name God.
This image of God shaped the spirit of Jesus. It is a stunning image. Yet many of our peers fail to grasp it. Some embrace, while others deny or reject the various stereotypical and anthropomorphic images of God that are preached by so many, rather than the image that shaped the spirit of Jesus. “I am the vine.” “My father is the vine grower.” “You are the branches.”
That leads me to a final and very significant point in this simile. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” What is that fruit? The fruit you will bear is unconditional love and compassion. This already is evident in so many of you as you are becoming more fully human. Celebrate spring! Celebrate Easter! The Risen One is the budding seed of God’s “new reality.” I believe in God and I believe Christ is Risen! (Truly he is Risen!) Because of him I see light