Lubem, [2 May 2021 at 6:35:16 am]:
Homily for V (5) Sunday of Easter Year B. 02-05-2021 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Acts 9: 26-31
Psalm: Psalm 22: 26-27, 28, 30, 31-32
Second Reading: 1 John 3:18-24
Gospel: John 15: 1-8
TO BE FRUITFUL WE MUST FIRST BE PRUNED
The first reading opens with the first testimony to the universality of the good news spreading beyond Jerusalem. In it we have one of the first miracles in the early Christian community which was considered unthinkable and an impossibility. This is the conversion of Paul formerly known as Saul, who was an ardent believer of Judaism and a thorough persecutor of Christians. No one could ever believe that a religious bigot like Saul would come to believe in Christ. However, the God of possibility touched him on his way to Damascus and he became converted and an ardent follower of Christ. If God could change Saul, do not think your case is different because with God, nothing is impossible. God did not only change Saul but made him into not only a disciple but an apostle of Christ bearing the good news to all and sundry. It was in fulfilling this very mission that he was also pruned in attornment for his sins. After his conversion when Paul preached Christ, the Christians were afraid of him and doubted him, while the Hellenists on the other hand wanted to kill him for bearing witness to Christ. However, Barnabas and the apostles shielded him from harm’s way, and from a persecutor he became a staunch apostle of Christ to bear the greatest witness to the gentiles, though not without crosses.
Like Christ’s invitation to us to carry our crosses and follow him, there is no possibility of following Him without undergoing pruning. This is the reality of the cross which is the Christian way of life. That is why He speaks of Himself in the gospel today as the true vine and we the branches. It is because the image of the vine was a rich one for the Jews since the land of Israel was dotted with numerous vineyards, which explains why it had also a rich religious significance. For instance, Isaiah spoke of Israel as the “vineyard of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:7), and described their moral decay using the same imagery when he prophesies about Israel as a vineyard which “yielded wild grapes” (cf. Isaiah 5:1-7). For a vine to regenerate, its branches must be pruned. Christ tells us we are His branches. Are we ready to be pruned in order to be fruitful?
When Christ refers to Himself as the true vine today, He makes it clear that we cannot attain growth and spiritual fruitfulness and moral goodness unless we are rooted to the source of all that is good which is God. Being in a religious affiliation or association is not sufficient by itself if we are not rooted in Christ the true vine. Ask yourself, are you rooted in Christ? If we are rooted in Christ, then pruning is inevitable because the vinedresser must prune the vine before it can bear good fruits. Characteristically a vine has two kinds of branches; those which bear fruit and those which do not bear fruit. Are you a fruit bearing branch?
When Christ talks about bearing fruits, what is he referring to? He refers to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). In other words, a true Christian must bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (cf Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus uses this image to describe the kind of life He produces in us when we remain grafted to Him since every tree bear fruits according to its likeness. Therefore, if we are Christians, we must bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit because not bearing these fruits, means that we are anything but Christian. Our Christianity can be called to question since it is not yielding the desired fruits of Christianity. It means that we are living double-standard lives, we are pretentious and our Christian witness is inauthentic. Ask yourself today, are you producing fruits at all? What kind of fruits are you producing? Let us remember that we cannot deceive God because in the end, every branch in Him that remains unfruitful He cuts away. If we are pruned and we still remain unproductive, then we are going to be cut away in the end. Sin is the primary cause of unproductiveness in us as branches, since by its nature it turns us against God and His command to love. Our fruits we show by our manner of love, not only by words and speech but by most importantly by deeds and actions.
As we celebrate Christ the true vine today, let us ask for the grace to remain true branches that will be perpetually joined to Him, overcoming pruning that comes in various ways whether as trials or persecutions, so that in perpetual adherence to Christ the true vine, we will be fruitful and continue to receive life, life in abundance. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.