Readings for May 7, Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 9:26-31; John 15:1-8
Sometimes I wish that I had started my life in a Jewish environment, because the expressions used in the New Testament must be so meaningful to people who were brought up with more experience of the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures and had so much greater depth of understanding of the expressions which Jesus and the writers of the Gospels used.
Also, as a city-bred person, I had very little understanding of vines. Much less did Jesus’ use of “vine” remind me of the use of vine by Jeremiah or Ezekiel or Isaiah.
Sometimes I am frustrated at having to study another culture and the history of another era in order to understand the Scriptures. Why couldn’t the Gospels have been written in terms we of the 21st century know about?
Of course, my better self understands that, when God’s Son made an entry into our world, it had to be in a real time, among real people. The Hebrew people had held on to their belief in one God for centuries, at great cost, and he came first to them.
When Jesus the Christ became one of us it was as we were in one place at one time. He takes us as we are, and we meet him as he is and was. They were not perfect people, and neither are we.
And so we hear in the Gospel that the Father prunes the vines, so that they will bear more fruit. We know that the people of that land suffered from its dryness, and that every grape counted. The branches of a vine — disciples and grape vines — that remain in God will bear fruit, and the others will be thrown into the fire. (This is not the fire of hell; it’s just what a normal gardener or farmer does with dried vines.)
We are called to remain in the Lord, become his disciples, and we can expect that what we want or need will be done for us.
In the Gospel, this is followed by the command to love one another. The second reading of today says it so well: that we should believe in the name of Jesus Christ, and love one another, not in words or speech, but in deed and truth. And for those who may feel unsure that they are truly loved by God, or forgiven for something in the past: “God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”
I have always found that consoling.
Saul, the ferocious persecutor of Christians, could not only be forgiven but become Paul, a great apostle and saint. If Barnabas had not brought Paul to the Apostles, we might never have heard of him, and the church might not have had the great teachings, which have come to us from the Spirit through him.
We can trust that the Spirit of God can come into the hearts of each of us, and that we will be able to produce fruit in whatever part of the vineyard we find ourselves.
Ursuline Sister Jeanne Hamilton lives in Wilmington.