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Homily for fifth Sunday of Easter B

27 Apr 2018, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

jesus-the-truevineA week ago, we celebrated the good shepherd Sunday; and Jesus called himself the good shepherd, a title that suggests the reality of the opposite. That is, there are bad shepherds. The same message is reflected in our gospel passage today; he calls himself the true vine; he qualifies his kind of vine.

Ancient Israel was 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 God’s vineyard, 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 well; he created us, and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was perfect.” (Gen., 1:31). Since God made us very good, how 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 the useless vine that carries leaves and no fruit.

It is biblical that he was tempted in every way like us but did not sin (Heb. 4:15). He is the true vine, and we are the branches. However, though created good, we lost everything to sin with all rights and privileges, but Christ restores it through his death and resurrection.  Jesus the vineHe 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 want 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 me the same question today, will you also go away or 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). 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. 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 live in God, and God lives in him.

To remain in Christ is not a mere word; it must be real. Many of us may have come to him, but are we still with him? Some may have been discouraged and left due to what seems like unanswered prayers to them. Frustrating conditions may have forced others to look elsewhere for a solution. 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 the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but 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.