YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
HOMILY THEME: THE-VINE LIFE
BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
1st Acts 9:26-31
2nd 1Jn. 3:18-24
3rd Jn. 15:1-8
Last Sunday Jesus revealed to us that he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the flock. It is part of the “I am” sayings which emphasize his perfection and resounds his divine name as revealed to Moses in Exodus chapter three. Today he tells us another attribute of himself that points to his Divine name and perfection: “I am the true vine”. Vine represents spiritual good. We must be grafted to the true vine to have a share in The- Vine life.
Jesus’ analogy of the true vine has deep background in the Old Testament. The Old Testament pictures Israel as the vine yard of God (Isaiah 5:7) Ezekiel 15 and 19:10 also liken Israel as the vine. Psalm 80:8 describes Israel as the vine God brought out of Egypt. This vine was eventually cut down and burned with fire (Psalm 80:14). These passages talk about Israel’s faithlessness to God. Thus, Israel was a degenerated vine which could give life to its branches. Consequently, the branches of a degenerated vine cannot bear fruit. Jesus calls himself the true vine in contrast to Israel, the untrue vine. The Greek translation of “true” is alethinos which literally means “real”, “genuine”. Jesus is saying that he is the vine that is most real and genuine, that does not disappoint its branches. The Jews believed that only consanguinity with Israel as a nation guarantees relationship with God, blessings and sustenance. However, true relationship with God can only be maintained by remaining in Christ the true vine. Jesus is the perfection of the degenerated vineyard of Israel.
We are the branches of the true vine. Two types of branches exist: those unattached and those that are attached to the stem. The unattached are those who cut themselves from the true vine. They are by themselves and cannot bear fruits. They can do nothing apart from Christ and they do not understand the implication. They cannot bear fruit. Consequently they are gathered and thrown away to the fire to be destroyed. The woods of vine are useless because they are too soft. Those attached to the vine are Christians who remain in Christ no matter what may. Storms of life are not too strong to break them from the major stem. Temptations and trials could not be more powerful as to make them fall away. Attached branches receive nourishment from Christ the true vine. Their prayers are answered “When he call on me I will answer him” (Psalm 91:15). They bear much fruits.
God is the vine dresser. He carefully prunes the branches to bear fruits. We are pruned by the word of God that Jesus gave us. We are also pruned by the blood which Jesus shed upon the cross. God also prunes us through the experiences we undergo in life so that we may be stronger in the vine and bear much fruit. In the first reading God subjected Saul to an overwhelming experience that led to his transformation. Saul cut himself from Christ and was bearing rotten fruits of envy for the popularity of the Christians and hatred for the message they spread because they contradicted his myopic understanding of God. On his way to persecute Christians in Damascus he encountered Jesus. The fruit of this encounter was Paul. Paul was fruitful, he carried the gospel to the ends of the earth. He remained in the true vine for the rest of his life.
Jesus wants us to abide in him always. Abiding in Christ means having an intimate relationship that overrides all earthly affection. There are many enticing philosophies and ideas in the world today that do not recognize the role of God in the world order. Their illusory success are nothing but mere rotten fruits. We should beware of such because they can easily make us drop grasp of the true vine. Christ echoes here, “for without me you can do nothing”. Those who think they are succeeding without God should learn that their success is nothing before God. Those who think they are still bearing fruits even without remaining in the true vine are bearing nothing but rotten fruits that do not last beyond this present life. When we remain in Christ we bear much fruits that last forever. God is glorified in us, our prayers are answered and our joys will be complete.
Fr. Johnbosco Obika loves you.