5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B ON MAY 2, 2021 (R. 1: Acts 9: 26- 31; Psalm 22: 26- 28, 30- 32; R. 2: 1 John 3: 18- 24; Gospel: John 15: 1- 8)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
YOU WILL ALWAYS NEED THE VINE
Parmenides of Elea, a Pre-Socratic Greek Philosopher gave the teaching that all that there is in reality is “the One.” He argued for the unity of nature. For him, what we see as variety in nature is just an illusion and a product of opinion as against reality. We can only find peace when we align ourselves with the One; on the other hand, we become frustrated when we fight against the oneness of the One. When I see your progress as mine and your pain as mine, the world becomes a better place for all of us.
Last Sunday, which was Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus drew our attention to the need for us to be one in him when he identified himself as the Good Shepherd, and us as the sheep forming one flock belonging to the one Shepherd. Our peace comes from remaining connected to the Good Shepherd, familiarizing ourselves with his voice, living according to his commands, and remaining with the flock.
This Sunday he uses another important imagery to continue his lesson on the need for us to remain one with him and in him. The imagery for today is that of the vine. These are the words of Jesus to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower…I am the vine, you are the branches.” The point here is that our continued existence depends on whether or not we are connected to the source of our existence. As branches, we are meant to produce fruits, but that can only be possible if we remain connected to the vine. The secret of his (Jesus’) success lies in his contact with his Father, for again and again he withdrew into a solitary place to meet his Father.
It is easy to be successful in life; however, it is very challenging to manage the success. Many easily become successful, but only a minute few can manage the success consistently. It boils down to the saying that “Pride goes before a fall.” When some people begin to produce fruits, they easily forget that they are not the originators of the sap, there is the vine grower, there is the vine, and we are only the branches; cut off from the vine, we stop producing fruits, and we perish.
Such is the story of many great people, great nations, great cultures, great civilizations, and inventions. They were connected to the source of their being when they were climbing up, but when they reached the top, they forgot that “Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” They forgot their humble beginnings, they became full of themselves, they thought they could be independent, they expelled the God who brought them into being, and that became the beginning their downfall.
Referring to us as branches of the vine also gives us a special responsibility. The branch is that part of the vine that carries out the function of producing fruits. Each one of us has been given a talent, and that is how we bear fruits. One important thing about branches is that they do not consume the fruits that they produce. They produce fruits for others to consume, and that is where the vine grower derives his joy from. Of what use is your smile when you lock yourself up in your room, smile to yourself only to come out and frown at others? Of what use is your sweet singing voice when you only sing to yourself in the shower? Of what use is your wealth when you are surrounded by people who are dying in abject poverty? Your fruit/talent is useless when it is not shared.
At the end of the Mass, when the Priest/Deacon says, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord,” you are expected to search within yourself, to discover your talents, to discover what you have been given by the Lord, then go and share with others that God may be glorified. Do not call on Christ to come and suffer for us again. We are his eyes, his hands, his legs, and his voice to change the world. We can’t afford to be passive and claim to be religious. Albert Einstein puts it this way, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
Christ is the true vine; this implies that there are false vines. He expects us to produce good fruits since there are also bad fruits. As we go about bearing good fruits, let us remember the words of Oscar Wilde, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” The choice is yours.