Sunday, May 3, 2015, is the 5th Sunday of Easter. The readings will be Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; and John 15:1-8.
During the Easter season, we hear frequently from the Gospel of John and about the various images that Jesus used to help us understand our relationship with him. Today we hear Jesus describe himself as the Good Shepherd. Next Sunday, Jesus says that he is “the true vine” and we are the branches. Both are helpful images.
It is the vine that sustains the life of the plant. It sends its roots into the soil and turns its leaves to the sun. A branch cannot survive if it is cut off from the vine. Likewise, Jesus is the source of our life, the one who has revealed the Father to us and redeemed us. “My Father,” says Jesus, “is the vine grower. He takes every branch that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Faithfulness to God’s Word (Jesus) is the pruning device, cutting out from our lives everything that keeps us from producing good fruit. It is also interesting that this particular Gospel reading uses the word “remain” eight times. Coming from the Greek word that means to stay or abide, it refers to the mutual indwelling that exists between Jesus and every disciple. Encouraging us to “remain in” Jesus is another way of encouraging us, branches, to stay connected to the vine, Jesus. Our second reading next Sunday tells us how to remain in Jesus: “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them.”
This Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is part of the dramatic account of a person connected to Jesus who has allowed himself to be “pruned” by God. Originally a persecutor of Christians, “Saul” is now one of the greatest disciples of all, bearing much fruit as the great “apostle to the Gentiles.” His new name, “Paul,” reflects his transformation.
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