Today’s Gospel Reading at the Sunday Mass comes from John 15:1-8:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
In today’s Gospel reading our Lord uses the phrase ‘remaining in Him (the Vine)’ six times, which let’s us know that He is trying to convey something essential to our life with Him here. Two the most powerful instances of the phrase is used to explain the benefits of remaining and consequences of not remaining:
- Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.
- Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither
HOW DO WE REMAIN IN JESUS CHRIST
As I wrote in last week’s reflection (On the Second Confession of Saint Peter), the Gospel of John “is a self-contained Christology; meaning that it does a great job in interpreting itself. In other words, if you want to know what the Apostle John means with his words, well, then just keep reading John and he will tell you himself.” The failure by too many Catholic apologists in not fully opening up John’s theology has lead them to diminishing the power of this reading by only linking Jesus’ command to ‘remain in me’ here with John 6:56 where the Lord says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
Obviously the reason for them making this hard link is to explain why receiving the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is essential for our Salvation. While I don’t disagree with their theology or rational in making such a hard link, I do disagree with the narrowness of their theology. Catholicism has absolutely nothing to do with linear Biblical theology, as we often find to be the case in other Christian communities.
A good example of what I mean by this can be found in chapter five of John. There Jesus was addressing a crowd of Jews who were angry at Him for healing a man on the Sabbath who had been ill for thirty-eight years. He goes on to tell them “Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.” Here Jesus explains the criteria of His word remaining in us comes by way of believing in Him.
To broaden our understanding further of what it means to ‘remain in Christ’, we actually don’t have to look any further than what our Catholic liturgists composed for our hearing today. The second reading at Mass comes from 1 John 3:18-24:
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.
As John wrote in chapter five of his Gospel that word remains in those who believe in Jesus, so again he writes in his letter that we are commanded to do what pleases God, and what pleases God is that “we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.” He then says that “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.”
For John, the evidence of knowing whether you are remaining in Christ or not comes by way of having evidence of the Holy Spirit living in you, which comes by the way of being convicted in the heart of sin. In other words, according to the Apostle John, if we have no sorrow or shame of wrong doing in our life or in the world, then the Holy Spirit is not alive in us and we are not part of the Vine that gives true life and sustenance.
Therefore, the call of today’s readings at Mass is to turn our life over to the command of Jesus, to love one another as He loved us. This love requires sacrifice (putting others best interest before ourselves), unceasing prayer in Jesus’ name, patience for God to help us work out or salvation and the salvation of all His people, and devotion to the Holy Trinity.
“Lord Jesus I confess that I can do nothing without you.
Therefore, I call upon the Holy Trinity to love in me, love through me, and love with me,
so that I can be all that you created me to be.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.