Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)
John 15:1-8 (B)
He who lives in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. Jesus said to His disciples:
Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
We have been looking carefully at the early Church during this Easter Season. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, two things strike me: One is that the Church was growing, it was gaining converts, and people were becoming a part of this group that we call Christian. Secondly, there was an inner calm, an inner peace in this group of Christians. Several characteristics set them apart so that people began to recognize them even though they didn't wear certain clothing or signs that distinguished them as Christian. One of the things that differentiated Christians was that they were known for their Love for one another. The other was their unshakable Faith in what they were proclaiming. Faith and Love were the distinguishing characteristics.
In the Gospel Passage from Saint John, we hear about the key Christian Mystery. It is so crucial to understand this. I haven't always believed this next statement that I will make to you from this reading. But it is so important, and it is one I seek to enter into more fully as I grow in my Christian life: I believe I cannot accomplish anything if I am separated from the Source of Life. I cannot accomplish even the simplest goals of Faith and Love unless I am rooted in the Source of Life. The beautiful Metaphor Jesus uses touches us on a level that is critical to sustaining Life. It asks us to imagine where we are rooted. The Metaphor describes a vine rooted somewhere, and we are the branches on the vine. If we do not stay connected to this vine that is rooted in the earth, then we end up being withered and unfruitful.
If we think for a few moments about where we are rooted, we might ask, "Where do I get my source of energy"? One of the places many people go is found in our culture. In this culture we live in, there are certainly many people who believe that being healthy is a matter of what we eat and how we exercise. We should be connected to both of these in order to be fruitful and effective. And there's nothing wrong with that. But what seems so clear in Scripture is that there is a danger in putting too much emphasis on just one part of the work. Sure, it's important to have a healthy body, to use that as a tool to be able to get around the world in an effective way. And yet, if that image of our bodies is what gives us self-confidence or worth, we are bound to be disappointed. The very process God has planned is that we have to let go of all of that - be it through sickness or disease - or simply the process of aging. On the other hand, if we put all our roots into relationships, they tend to leave this world before we are going to leave or they are unable to keep their commitments. They are going to disappoint us. And if we put all our roots in our achievements or the applause we get for our achievements, then we are in a very tenuous place. We are only putting ourselves into part of the picture. Jesus reminds us there is only one place to have the vine and its branches, and that is coming from the Source of Life. The heart of Jesus' teaching is to believe in the mysterious Spirit giving us Life. Over and over again, Jesus invites us to move in the direction of feeling and knowing that presence in our hearts.
Jesus says that we need "to remain in Him, and He in us". He invites us to imagine that the Spirit of God is not only the source of that which we are called to do - being lovers and believers - but to believe that others enable us to receive Gifts and Goodness. We need to believe in the place that God has given us and to believe in the people around us as Sources of Life for us. We need to believe the Divine Plan is good for us. Jesus challenges us to believe in an enchanted universe. That's probably why the early Christians were so joyful and so connected to their world. This Universe is filled with Spirit, filled with Angels, and filled with the Spirits of those who have gone before us. To really believe in and to trust in that idea changes our days. It makes our experiences during the day very different. We're not simply taking things on face value. We're not materialistic in the sense that we say, "All that is there is what I can see", or "All that is there is what I can understand". That is very foreign to the disposition of one rooted in the Christian Tradition. When Jesus says, "If you are rooted in this vine, if you are living in Me, then I am going to be pruning you and taking care of you so that you will be fruitful". And so, we recognize that there are many setbacks and problems in life. God never promised through Christ that we would have flawless lives. He simply invites us into a way of seeing our ups and downs as events that are ultimately good for us.
Jesus says we are able to ask anything if we are living in Him and He is living in us. That's one of those phrases that can be hard to understand. I'd like you to imagine it this way: When we are rooted in the Source of Life, when we see Life all around us and long to enter into this Life, then it seems that the longings and desires we have are for the things that ultimately are Good. When we ask God to use the Spirit within us for the building up of the Kingdom, for the Good, and when we Pray to be a Source of Life to those around us, it all has to work. The whole set-up is designed to do this. It's like getting a machine ready as God has invited us to do, and then when we turn it on, it's always going to work. It's exciting to imagine that our challenge is to get ourselves in sync with this Spirit. This Spirit dwells within us as the Source of Energy enabling us to Love and to Believe in all things. We also realize that the Spirit is in those things that we Love and Believe in so that everything works toward us in ways that are Life-Giving. As we give ourselves over to the process, we can accomplish what ultimately, deep down, God longs for us to accomplish. If we could see ourselves in the fullness of what God sees inside of us, we would realize that we are getting exactly what we need and receiving everything that God longs to give us.