The Fifth Sunday of Easter [B]
Acts 9:26-31 + 1 John 3:18-24 + John 15:1-8
“Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit.”
When a person packs his things and moves off to a new place, he expects to meet a lot of new people, and to see a lot of new things. But at the same time, it’s important for him to keep in touch with the persons and places he loves. Through technology, it’s relatively simple to keep in touch in our day and age.
God, however, has a more simple method, a more profound way, and a more abiding means to “keep in touch”: that is, for love to be shared between Him and His People, and among His People. We hear about that Way in the Scriptures today. We reflect on that Way throughout this Easter Season. The Easter Season culminates in a celebration of this Way, which is the Church.
We do ourselves a disservice if we think of the Easter Season as being only fifty days of celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. We do God a disservice if we think that the Father would raise Jesus from the dead only for Jesus’ sake. God the Father raised Jesus from the dead for our sake. The Easter Season is not only about Jesus’ resurrection. The Easter Season is also about fallen man’s resurrection.
In other words, we need to think of the Easter Season as having two poles, just as Earth does. The first pole of the Easter Season is its first day, Easter Sunday, on which the Church gives praise for the Resurrection of Jesus. But the opposite pole of the Easter Season is its last day, Pentecost Sunday, on which the Church is given the gift that Jesus was given on Easter Sunday morn.
In between the first and last days of the Easter Season, the Risen Lord bestows His grace to many persons through the power of the Comforter. Today’s Gospel passage continues to describe that bestowal of grace.
We hear one of simplest images in the Gospel: a vine and its branches. This image is, obviously, an organic one. It makes sense to gardeners and farmers. Such an organic relationship, or set of relationships, is at the heart of the relationship between Christ and His disciples. Or to use the metaphor that St. Paul favored, the image of a vine and its branches describes the relationship between Christ and the members of His Body.
Jesus is teaching us about the nature of the Body of Christ through this agricultural image. Christ is the vine, or the head of the Body of Christ. His disciples are the branches, or the members of the Body. To describe as organic how Christ’s love is shared between Him and His People, and among His People, is not only to say that these are “living” relationships. These relationships are bound up with each other. These relationships bind together the two beams of the Cross: the vertical beam, which symbolizes man’s vocation to love God, and the horizontal beam, symbolizing man’s vocation to love his neighbor. The two are one in Jesus, whose life you and I share in through the Power of the Holy Spirit.