Homily for fifth Sunday of Easter B
A week ago we celebrated the good shepherd Sunday and Jesus called himself the good shepherd, a title that suggest that the opposite exist. That is, there are bad shepherds. The same message is reflected in our gospel reading today, he calls himself the true vine and not just a vine.
The people of Israel from ancient times were called the vine of God; for the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting… (Is. 5:7). Throughout the Old Testament the people of Israel were seen and addressed as the vineyard of God, but this vine that was planted by God became something ells, it became a wild vine. Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? (Jer. 2:21). This is a question met for all of us, how did we degenerate? God planted us a choice vine, he made us in his own image and likeness, he blessed us and gave us power over every other creature. God created everything good, he created us and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31). Since God made us very good, how then did we degenerate to be what Ezekiel calls useless vine? (Eze.15). What happened? what have I become? what have you become? Do we reflect the true vine? Certainly we have allowed weakness and sin to turn us into useless vine that carries leafs and no fruit.
The bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way like us but did not sin (Heb. 4:15), he is therefore the true vine and we are the branches. Though created good, with all rights and privileges we lost everything to sin but Christ restores it through his death and resurrection. He said, whoever remains in me, with me in him bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Jesus is not talking about coming to him but remaining in him. So many came to him and left for one reason or the other, he even asked the apostles if they too wants to leave. After this, many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, will you also go away? (Jn. 6:66-67).
Jesus is asking you and I the same question today, will you also go away or will you remain in me? Many left him because they felt his teachings were too hard for them, …saying; who can listen to it? (Jn. 6:60). Others left him because they were not ready to listen to the truth. They brought a woman who had been caught in adultery to Jesus for him to condemn and give the go ahead to stone her to death, Jesus confronted them with the truth but when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. (Jn. 8:9). So many followed him as he entered into Jerusalem triumphantly, but as soon as they discovered that he was heading for the cross they abandoned him. Christianity is not all about coming to Christ but to remain in Christ; we can only bear fruit if we remain in him. Jesus said in our gospel reading today that anyone who does not remain in ‘him’ is like a branch that has been thrown away-he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt. It is only in Christ Jesus we have life in abundance, it is only by remaining in him that we are sure of eternal life.
Those who remain in Christ are Christ like, that likeness of Christ is what the disciples in Jerusalem had not seen in Saul and they feared him when he visited them in Jerusalem after his conversion. Our first reading tells us that they could not believe he was really a disciple because to be a disciple is far more than just calling oneself a disciple. Jesus had so many disciples, but how many remained with him? John said in our second reading that our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are the children of the truth…whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him.
To remain in Christ is not mere word but it must be real. So many of us may have come to him but are we still with him? Some may have left because they felt their prayers were not answered the way they wanted, some of our frustrating conditions may have forced others to look elswhere for solution while some others may have left Jesus because the Church leaders disappointed them. But I ask like Peter, to whom shall we go? It is by remaining in him we become the children of God, …to all who received him, who believes in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn. 1:12-13). Therefore, let us remain in him and bear fruit in plenty. Apart from him we can do nothing, he is the true vine and we are the branches.