Sunday Scripture: I am the vine, you are the branches,
April 27, 2012
By Sister Betty Jane Lillie, SC
Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22: 26-27, 28, 30, 31-32; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
The readings for this week focus on the early church and explicate the themes that drew the community’s life together in the resurrected Christ.
The Gospel of John has a number of familiar sayings that start with the words “I am,” and they highlight the intimate union between Christ and the church that is at the heart of the Christian life.
Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles presents Saul of Tarsus in the early period of his integration into the Christian community. He preached boldly in the name of Jesus, to the point of risking his life, so that he had to leave Jerusalem and return to his home town of Tarsus. Nevertheless, the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria grew with the comfort of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:31).
In the second reading from the First Letter of John, the writer urges the community to love one another in deed and in truth. In other words, those who take on membership in the Christian community need to move beyond words to living in deed and in truth. The point of that is that the Lord’s commandments are at the root of the life of Christ within us. The point of saying that is the call to believe in the name of Jesus and love one another. Thus, we abide in Christ by the Spirit, which He has given us.
This idea of the unity of the community of believers with the very person of Christ, and thus of the Trinity, is a profound understanding of what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is who bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In this way, the members of the community glorify the Father and thus bear the fruit of discipleship.
In the sense of Johannine community, the church participates in the community of the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the source of the spiritual life of the faith community, and as our Gospel has it, we abide in the Lord and the Lord abides in us (John 15:4). Jesus also said that the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends in Jesus’ name will teach us all things and give us peace in His love (John 14:26).
In this Easter season we may take a moment to reflect back to the conversation of Jesus with Martha as He anticipated raising her brother Lazarus from the dead. He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Maybe we would like to take a few moments to ponder that question for ourselves.
With the psalmist we can praise the Lord with all who seek the Lord and turn to Him in worship. We raise our voices with those who live now, and also for those of future generations (Palm 22).
Sister Betty Jane is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.