Scripture: Lectionary 289. 5/11/12. Acts 15:22-31. Psalm 57:8-9.10-12.
Fr. George W.MacRae, S.J., in his precise commentary on John tells us
about the way to view and understand the symbol of the vine and the
branches. He states “…perhaps, we should regard the vine symbol on a
par with many of the other Johannine symbols such as water, bread,
light, and the rest. They are chosen because their value as religious
symbols is widespread—perhaps, in the experience of the evangelist,
universal.” (Invitation to John, p.183).
Jesus has begun this extended image-example of the vine and the
branches by telling us that he is identified as “I AM” or the Greek
original “Ego Eimi”. This identification is used only in John and
tells us that Jesus and God his Father are one! We first heard of
this title for God when he appeared and revealed this mysterious name
“I who am” to Moses through the burning bush on Mount Sinai. For Jesus
this is the identity he gives to us through the Fourth Evangelist that
makes him equal to God. We are at the foundational revelation of the
Christian religion through this expression used by Jesus with all of
the symbols in the Gospel of John. The universalism of the Gospel
extends itself to all peoples, all nations through this identification
of who Jesus is or can be for them if they have the faith and grace to
believe in him.
Many of the listeners during the time of Jesus would be most familiar
with an image-example of the vine and branches. They thus could
understand that Jesus is speaking of the intimacy he wishes to have
with everyone who listens with a believing heart and mind to what he
is revealing about himself and his own intimate relationship with his
Father. His language was easily understood through this agricultural
imaging with which they were so familiar. It made sense to them but
pushed them to go deeper into what he meant by it for them. He does
not remain with the image but goes to the necessity of doing the
commandment of love through absolute trust in him. This love is
called “agape” or total self-giving
of one’s love to God, to Jesus, and to our neighbor. Such love also
enables each person to reach the human wholesomeness that can be
achieved by love based on trust in a Divine Person. Bishop Fulton
Sheen was hinting to this agape love in the sacrament of marriage when
he said, “It takes three to make a marriage.” He meant that God has to
be connected to the love of the spouses.
As individuals we belong to a family and to a community where such
agape love must make us transparent to the members of the family and
community to which we belong. No duplicity, or passive aggressive
behavior is part of this self-giving love. God pours out his love
into our hearts and makes them similar to the sacred heart of his Son
Jesus. The Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Word of God are
essential to this love of God, neighbor, and self. Amen. Alleluia.
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