Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

5th SUNDAY OF EASTER: JESUS IS THE VINE, WE THE BRANCHES

Jn 15: 1-8


IN TODAY’S GOSPEL, we hear of another image of Jesus, that is, the vine. The Old Testament literature often speaks of the people of Israel as God’s vineyard producing sour grapes because of their infidelity (see Ps 80; Is 5; Jer 2:21; Ez 15). When Jesus takes this as his personal image, he contrasts Himself to Israel’ infidelity; he affirms his faithfulness in bearing the fruit of God’s work. God finds true fidelity in Jesus, a fidelity which culminated in his self-offering on the Cross.

Let us try to reflect further on this image of the vine and branches.

Firstly, the image of vine-branches demonstrates what the Church should be. As a Body of Christ, the members should remain united with their head who is Christ. A Christian’s union with Christ should be seen as something “personal”. Therefore, if one’s relationship with Christ is only nominal, then, it cannot be a true relationship. In that case, one can never be a true Christian, because his or her affinity is only by name. This means that one has no closer relationship with Christ and his Church.

Secondly, the fruit of the vine-branches relationship is intimacy. Intimacy is something one can gain in this relationship. Intimacy suggests knowledge about the “other,” so much so that one can speak on behalf of the “other.”  We also have heard this in last week’s gospel wherein Christ said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Intimacy demands a quantity of time, as well as a “quality time.” We can only be intimate with Christ if we search for him regularly, and likewise, if we seriously spend time with him in prayer and in reading the word of God.

Thirdly, the invitation of Jesus in this kind of relationship is to abide in him. He emphatically says, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” Here, Jesus demands fidelity or loyalty to him. Jesus is always faithful to us; he always remains in us. But our response to this often falls short. Often, we have not become faithful to him. Or often we have distanced ourselves from him.

Furthermore, Jesus also promises a fruitful life for those who cling to him. He says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” A faithful and loyal relationship with Jesus produces good results. Why? Because we have Jesus to guide us on our life’s journey. In fact, as the psalmist says, He guides us to the right path.

The words of Jesus that we hear in the gospel passage today is an invitation to “friendship with Jesus.” A lot of people consider Jesus as their friend. This is a good way to start in relating themselves with Jesus. Friendship with God or friendship with Jesus is a call to intimacy.

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI developed this theme on friendship with Christ. To a group of children who were candidates of First Holy Communion, he said, “To receive Jesus in Holy Communion is to enter into a lifelong friendship with him.” And to a group of young people, he exhorted that “a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ.” It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false.

The Pope was aware that some young people have some apprehensions in relating themselves with Christ. That if they let Christ enter fully into their lives, if they open themselves totally to him, they are afraid that Christ might take something away from them. But he assured them that if they let Christ into their lives, they lose nothing because only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship they experience beauty and liberation. Christ takes nothing away; on the contrary, He gives us everything. And that is the beauty and goodness of having Christ as our friend. AMEN.


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