5th Sunday of Easter
A couple of years ago, I tried my hand at a bit of gardening and trimmed the overgrown Virginia creeper in our garden. In my ignorance, I unknowingly cut one of the main branches close to the roots. I only realised this when I saw one third of the bush withering the next day – you can imagine how horrified I was! Within a week, I was pulling off a big pile of dead and completely dried out branches of the plant in dismay. I have unfortunately killed several other plants over time and accepted that perhaps I should stay away from gardening or risk destroying everything.
I was reminded of this experience as I read today’s Gospel. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15) I remember being puzzled when I first read this line many years ago – my sceptical 19-year-old self thought, ‘I’m not connected with God 99.9% of the time, and I’m doing plenty of things! I’m succeeding and achieving in many areas, I’m having a great life, I think I’m a good enough person, and I’m happy!’ Unlike the branch that immediately withered when cut off from the main stalk, people don’t just flop and become useless when they don’t follow Jesus, do they?
I suppose there are two possible ways (among many!) to interpret Jesus’ words. The first is to think that there is no truth in it, and Jesus was saying something akin to an empty threat: ‘Stay with me, or else you’ll die!’ he said – yet one only needs to look around to see that this isn’t really the case… at least not literally.
The second possible interpretation is that Jesus was saying the truth… and if we are alive or can do anything at all, that is because somehow we are connected to Him, even when we are not aware of it. This opens up a whole new way of looking at the our life – could it be that God is somehow sustaining me, giving me Life, enabling me to do something as simple as waking up every day, walking, eating, drinking, working, etc… even when I don’t ask for it explicitly or acknowledge Him? If so, what a great and unconditional Love He has for each one of us! And how much more grace can there be in our lives, if we were to actually become aware of this and live by it! Indeed, as St. John said in the second reading: “We are children of the truth” – in faith, we are called to live by this truth, to “live in God, as He lives in us” (1 Jn 3)
This weekend and the next, many children will celebrate their first time receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. As we pray for them, let us also give thanks to God for the gift of Eucharist and being able to receive Him in our lives – spiritually and physically – and live accordingly, nourished by Him, loving one another, bearing fruit that will last.
Have a blessed week ahead!