Grow in Jesus, the Vine of Love

05-02-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

I read many books and articles on gardening. Some of the reading is for inspiration and some is for knowledge about plants and the skill to grow and properly care for them. Although the Gospel this weekend comes from the "Discourse of the Last Supper", the images in it are most appropriate to this season of new plant growth and the greening of our land and countryside. It is important to know that during the time of Passover the Last Supper occurred and that the Passover is always every Spring. This is the time of trees budding, plants starting to sprout from the earth, and vines beginning to grow and spread their branches. This is a very critical season for caring for plant life. What happens at this point in time influences the whole of plant life and growth onward. IN our passage this weekend, when Jesus speaks to the apostles about being grafted onto him as branches similar to a vine, they know he means he is the strong vine that will support them and always give them life. At this point Jesus is not addressing his concern over their relationship to one another; rather he is laser-focused on their relationship to him. He is to be their source of life, and indeed of all their relationships.

This weekend in our first reading we gain an insight into the growth of a relationship that was not easy to achieve. We read of Saul who now is among the apostles. They are afraid of him because he was known to be a vicious enemy of the followers of Jesus. This was why Barnabas introduced Saul to the apostles and told them that how he, Saul, had spoken fearlessly "... in the name of Jesus". Barnabas succeeded in this introduction and allayed their fears about Saul and now as a result the Greek-speaking Jews were angry at Saul. Because of this the apostles sent him away to his home in Tarsus until conditions would calm down. The readings also tell us that, except for this incident, the early Church was fundamentally at peace and growing steadily. The second reading of the weekend instructs the early believers to remember to live by faith in the name of Jesus Christ and also by a love that shows in deed and truth. To do all this is the best test of our adherence to Jesus, the vine.

In our lives and also in our church we may at times have before us injustice and a lack of tranquility inside and outside our ranks. Our response must be to pray for peace and justice and also to act lovingly to bring about that very peace and justice. If we do not act in this manner, then clearly, we are not grafted to the Vine Jesus Christ himself.

Jesus calls for us to place our heart and life in him who is the source of our close relationships with one another. All this requires involvement and commitment. Our prays and our actions cannot be this "spiritual" or "magical like" response. We are incarnated beings, and we must respond in actual physical reality.

We must always remember that our source is in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Vine; we are the branches. We grow and thrive in Him by our prayers and also equally by our actions. We must support one another as we are part of the Vine of Jesus Christ. It is not always easy, but it is always right. When we recognize that we all believe, it becomes easier to offer our prayers and deeds for one another. Simply put, when we realize it is not about "us or me", but Jesus Christ, then our actions can more easily happen.