Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)
Society today tends to teach us extreme individualism whereby people set their hearts in the “pursuit of personal happiness and independence rather that collective goals or interests” (Dictionary). It also demonstrates the “belief that society exists for the benefit of individual people, who must not be constrained by government interventions or made subordinate to collective interests” (Dictionary).
Today Jesus leads us to an understanding that life has meaning and fruitfulness only in Him and with Him. By using the picture of the vine, Jesus teaches us the following:
- In this world no one can live by himself only, neither can anyone live apart from God, the Almighty. A branch, to have life and to bear fruit, has to remain in the vine. Jesus tells us that “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” (Jn 15:6). A Christian, in order to bear fruit, has to remain in Jesus. How can he afford to be separated from Jesus when he has already been baptized in Him and made heir of the Kingdom. Only he who deliberately detaches himself from Jesus through sin will lose his inheritance of the Kingdom.
- People come from the same God and belong to one another. The fruit of the vine always grows in cluster. No person just pops into the world without being born through the relationship of persons. He grows physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually in a family and in community. God wants people to grow in the Church as family. Jesus proclaims: “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” (Jn 15:4-5).
- People’s capacities and blessings are for the good of all and not for the benefit of a few only. Selfishness has no place in the Kingdom of God. Grape is processed as wine to be served at the tables of families. The fruit of the vine was used by Jesus and the Apostles at the last supper. We use it in the celebration of the Eucharist, so that as Church, we can grow in the love of the Lord, for as often as we do it, we do it in memory of Him. When we celebrate the Eucharist we re-live the redemption that Jesus came and died for us, we grow in His life, we grow in love for the Church and for one another, and we joyfully anticipate our second life in His Kingdom.
Our readings today point out the signs of being with Jesus:
- Believing in the Lord. Belief leads to seeing the Lord, for to those who believe and obey His commands, the Lord lives in them and leads them to the Father. Their lives will not be without fruits of the Spirit that lead others also to faith in the Lord.
- Remaining in the community of disciples. Yes, to be with Jesus is to be with His loved ones, His faithful followers, and to be nourished by the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Their lives become sweet songs of hope and love among brothers and sisters proclaiming the presence of the Lord.
- Proclaiming the life of Jesus. Just as the disciples could not contain the life of Jesus in themselves, Christians joyfully proclaim their joy in prayer with the community especially in the celebration of the Eucharist and in other church celebrations, because Jesus is risen from the dead and has appeared to the brothers.
How do we remain in Jesus?
- In prayer. Personal prayer and prayer with the Church lead us to the Heart of the Blessed Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit open themselves to us so that we can enter into relationship with them, just as Jesus promised that God will live in those who are faithful to Him.
- Participation in the sacraments and in the life of the Church. The sacraments are nourishing gifts that Jesus left for us to strengthen us daily in our journey to the Father.
- Loving obedience to God’s will. God’s commands are not burdensome. In fact they are the lifeblood of our relationship with Him through faithful and honest relationship with our families and with others, fidelity to our responsibilities, and openness to opportunities of growth in holiness.
- Allowing God to prune us. God works in us at all times, and in suffering He is close to us. He makes us more fruitful through the suffering that we joyfully offer to God for others, and in the works of mercy that we gladly perform in solidarity with the needy, for God rewards the cheerful giver and brings consolation to the long-suffering and enduring person.
In our celebration of the Eucharist, we proclaim the Lord’s life, His death and resurrection and our participation in His gift of life to us. May the Eucharist ever bind us to Jesus and bring us the joy that we seek, and as long as we celebrate Easter we pass over with Him from merely craving for earthly things to faithfully striving for the things of heaven.