5th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31
1 John 3:18-24
May 3, 2015
To help us understand what our relationship should be with Him, Jesus uses earthly comparisons like “I am the light of the world.” Last week it was “I am the good shepherd.” Today it is “I am the true vine.”
We know light is necessary for us to be able to see. In Jesus’ day, the image of a shepherd was very familiar to the people. Today, not so much but we can still relate to it. The image of the vineyard was familiar to the Israelites and, since we live in the Finger Lakes and wine country, it is a meaningful image for us.
When you drive past a vineyard, you do not see grape vines laying on the ground going every which way. The vines are planted in neat rows and pruned and tied to make it possible for them to thrive and bear fruit.
If you don’t prune the grapes, they won’t bear much fruit. In the same way we must prune our own lives so that we might thrive. What do we use as the criteria for pruning?
Honestly, when I trim vines, trees, or bushes, I really don’t know what to prune. If a tree branch is too low to walk under I cut it. If it is crooked, I cut it.
For pruning our lives, we need to turn to God to set the priorities in our lives. We can have a lot going on in our lives and at some point it becomes too much and we start cutting. Unfortunately, we don’t always trim for the right reasons. We might keep what is fun rather than what is good for us. We might hold on to what makes us popular or what is easiest. Doesn’t it make sense to get rid of the hard stuff?
The other option we might do is rather than get rid of anything, we keep everything but we might do the absolute bare minimum. We can do this with our faith saying if we just come to church once in a while it is enough. How much do we get out of it? If we want to get more out of it, we must put more into it and when that isn’t enough ask God to do the rest.
Let’s go back to the image of Jesus as the vine. He is the vine and that makes us the branches. The branches cannot live without the vine. The nourishment the branches need comes from the vine.
When we seek to do the minimum for our faith are we really connected to Jesus or do we just bump up against Him once in a while?
I’ve mentioned before the wild grape vines at my dad’s. I thought I had gotten rid of most of them but last week I found a vine that had sprouted up again, growing up and wrapping itself around a tree. While it was wrapped around the tree it was not connected to the tree. The vine had its own roots in the ground.
I found the place where the vine came out of the ground and that is where I cut it. Because it was wrapped around the tree, I couldn’t pull it all down immediately but once I cut it, the branches very quickly died and then I could pull them off.
When we sin, we cut ourselves off from Jesus and experience a spiritual death. We cannot find true life on our own. Fortunately, Jesus has an answer. Jesus has a way to regraft us onto the vine.
It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or confession). Do we see it as a gift or do we fear it?
We might fear it because we know we deserve to be punished. We know God has the power to punish. The Old Testament speaks of God’s punishment but in the New Testament a new image of mercy.
Think about Saul/Paul. As Saul, he was a zealous persecutor of the Christians. So much so that they feared him and didn’t want to go near him. When he became a Christian, they did not believe it, they still feared him. For those who did believe him, he became a great instrument of spreading the faith.
Paul moved from being a persecutor to a champion of the faith. If he can change, so can we. When we confession our sins we say an act of contrition that includes a promise to not sin again but we do. There’s where we need God’s help.
How much is Jesus a priority in your life? If He is not #1, why not? Would you like to change that? What will it take?
If we wish to know eternal life, we must remain with Jesus in all things. May God help us to always remain connected to Him.