Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter
Dearly Beloved, as we come to the 5th Sunday of Easter, we are again presented with a very powerful image of the vine. This imagery is the last in a series of 7 “I AM” statements from our Lord. (Does anyone know any such passages in the gospel of John where Jesus used an “I AM” statement). We can go through them now.
1. ‘I am the bread of life. (John 6:35)
2. ‘I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)
3. “I am the door. (John 10:9)
5. “I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26)
6. “I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6)
7. “I am the vine; you are the branches. (John 15:5)
This is a very short passage and I would like us to read together as we reflect on it the same time. But before then, I would like us to look at another passage in the gospel of Matthew regarding Christ’s reaction to a tree that has no fruit. Matthew 21:18-19
18 When he was going back to the city in the morning, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went over to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again.” And immediately the fig tree withered.
Dearly Beloved, the evidence of our Christian life lies in the fruit we bear. Bearing fruit is a big deal. It is central to our gospel today. But we can only bear fruit in so far as we remain in Christ.
According to St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians: 5:22 “22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
At least, we have an idea of some of the fruits we are expected to bear as we remain in Christ.
Let us direct our attention to the gospel. If you can read verse by verse.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
By using the adjective “true” to vine, Jesus implicitly acknowledges the existence of other vines. There are other vines that we can seemingly draw life from. But they are not true vines. (Think of some such vines in your life- family, friends, money etc). and many other things you feel your life depends on.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
Notice again, how fruit bearing is important to the sustenance of the branch on the vine.
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
Pruning is a normal practice to farmers, but it is difficult when its applied to us. The more fruits you bear, the more he puts away anything that stands in the way of your bearing fruits. It can be family, friends, job, other things you consider important to you. At times, the more intimate you get with him, the more hardships you face.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
There is emphasis on his word that prunes us. The more we understand him through his words, the more our pruning is made easier. Because then we do not fight the changes he brings into our lives.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
When you feel so pressured for being intimate with him, he encourages you to still remain. Just don’t give up because you can not stand to be pruned.
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.
He wants you to still remain, not for his sake, but for your sake. Because, there is nothing you can do outside of him. The better life you see out there, that which attracts you to leave his side, is not real but an illusion. He is the only one who can truly sustain you.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Then comes a clear statement of the kind of relationship we have with him. HE is the vine AND we the branches. But not the other way round.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
The joy of remaining with him is the ability to bear fruits.
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.
Sin will harm your relationship with him but your reluctance to repent is that which will cut you off from him and wither. Sin does not cut you off, so long as you sincerely confess them and get better.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
He comes with a promise. Remember what he said in the earlier verse about his “word”? You see; the more alive his word is in your life, the more your desires are transformed to his desires for you. In such moments, you receive anything you ask, not because you asked, but because those are the same things he desires for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
Regardless of the level of the relationship, he mentions one thing that makes God happy, that which glorifies God. And that is “bear fruit”.
One thing you need to keep in mind is that fruits are to be enjoyed by others around you. How much love, peace, joy does your presence bring to others? Do spend time to think about the kind of fruits you are bearing and how they are affecting all those around you. It is my prayer that your life bring much nourishment to the people around you. “that they may give glory to God because of you”