Fifth Sunday of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Members remain standing while the Gospel is read. After the Gospel is read, members kiss the Gospel and are seated. After an appropriate period of reflection, members are invited to share their own lights from the Holy Spirit in relation to this Gospel passage. The secretary synthesizes reflections into a brief summary for the team.
(30 minutes) See monthly schedule
The Better Part
Consider privately reflecting on the corresponding chapter from The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek, LC, ThD during the week.
Unit #285 – “Bearing Fruit for Christ’s Kingdom” – John 15:1-8
“O Lord Jesus, I surrender to you all my will. Let me be your lute. Touch any string you please, Always and forever let me make music in perfect harmony with your own. Yes, Lord, with no ifs, ands or buts, let your will be done in this family, for the father, for the children, for everything that concerns us, and especially let your will be done in me.” St Jane de Chantal
“Others may have their wealth, may drink out of jeweled cups, be clad in silks, enjoy popular applause, find it impossible to exhaust their wealth by dissipating it in pleasures of all kinds, but our delight is to meditate on the Law of the Lord day and night…” St Jerome
Christ the Lord
The world’s greatest leaders influence people from the outside in; their speech, their ideas, their example, their presence – they move us and motivate, they draw us and stir us. Christ, however, goes much deeper. He not only calls us from the outside, but he also unites himself to us so intimately that his very life flows through our veins. “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Where does the vine stop and its branches begin? Their union is too complete to tell. The same sap gives life to the vine and to its branches. He is Lord from within, renewing hearts from the inside, as only God can do. Once again, Jesus Christ stands alone among great historical figures; not only does he excel all others in their own game, but he plays in an entirely different league; he is a leader, but he is also the Lord.
Christ the Teacher
Jesus tells us point blank what the Father wants. God wants us to “bear much fruit” and to “be [his] disciples.” God wants our lives to show forth his goodness, to bring lost souls back into the fold, to fill human society and culture with the justice and beauty they need to flourish. Our desire to do something with our lives is a gift from God; we are created in his image, and he is Creator – we too yearn to build, to contribute, to make a difference that will last not only in this life but into all eternity.
Bearing this fruit requires in the first place our own efforts to stay united to the vine, through prayer, the sacraments, and loving obedience to God’s will. And it also requires our being pruned – the purification of our selfishness that comes through suffering and sacrifice. Love and sacrifice, as all the lives of the saints attest to, and as Christ himself exemplifies, keep the sap flowing. They yield the fruit we yearn for most: living a life that resounds with meaning and energy, a life that positively impacts others and exudes joy and enthusiasm, a life that changes this world for the better in as profound a way as Christ’s own life did, and a life whose meaning and impact overflow into eternity. This is what God wants for us; this is why Jesus came to earth. Bearing such fruit makes life worth living; without it we are dry, dead branches good for nothing except the fire – pretty simple lesson, pretty dire consequences if we don’t learn it well.
Christ the Friend
Christ goes on to tell us how to how to achieve this fruitfulness: “remain in me… cut off from me you can do nothing.” As long as we stay united to the vine, whatever apostolic activities we engage in will yield a harvest – even a small branch dangling near the ground will produce its fruits as long as it’s united to the vine. Separated from Jesus Christ, no one can live in communion with God, the only source of lasting fruit. How much we need to learn how to pray and make that the center of our lives! This is Christ’s constant refrain from the moment of his incarnation:
Come to me, learn from me, follow me… My heart yearns for you to make my friendship the highest value of your life, so that I can fill you with true peace, meaning, and joy – the kind that you long for but can never achieve on your own. The sacraments, the Church, prayer, the Bible – these are all extensions of my effort to stay intimately united with you, to guide you along the path of everlasting life, and to reveal to you the glories of my love. These were my final words before I went to death on the cross, my last lesson; I really mean them: remain in me; stay close to me; do not forsake me; trust in me.
Christ in my Life
Lord, your very life flows through my veins. Why don’t I think of this more? Why do I let myself act as if this world were all there is? I know that my life now is a training ground of love, a chance to exercise the virtues of faith, hope, and love that you have grafted into my soul, an opportunity to spread your Kingdom to those around me. In my fidelity to that mission is your pleasure; in it is my joy…
No one loves me more than you. No one has given me more than you – no one can. If I succeed on my own, the satisfaction is real, but it passes; I need another success to feel satisfied again. If I possess something nice, I enjoy it for awhile, but then it gets old. You want me to enjoy fruit that will last, the undying fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22).
Of all the people I know, how many are united to the vine of your friendship, Lord? Half? A little less, a little more? You are yearning for all of them to live close to you, so you can make their lives bear fruit, the kind they yearn for. So I ask you, why don’t I feel a bigger burden to pray for them and to show them your love? Why am I satisfied in my comfort zone? Let the light of your heart illumine my heart…
Questions for Discussion
What struck you most in this passage? What did you notice that you hadn’t noticed before?
Christ wants nothing more than to remain united to each of us in intimate friendship. This is his greatest desire. How can we measure if our greatest desire is the same?
What are some signs that we can look for in order to determine whether our lives are “bearing fruit” in the way that God is hoping?
What can we do to make sure that we always stay united to the vine? What do you think is the surest and most visible sign that we have cut ourselves off from the vine?