|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Acts 9:26-31||Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32||1 Jn 3:18-24||Jn 15:1-8|
Disciples, connected or kindling
The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings focus on a disciple’s role in continuing Jesus’ mission.
The first reading is from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. For the last few weeks, we’ve been hearing about Peter and his role in the believing community. In today’s reading, we begin to hear about the ekklesia‘s other hero, Paul. Luke introduces Paul at Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:58). Paul persecutes the believing community in Jerusalem, and plans to expand his persecution into Damascus. While traveling to Damascus, Paul encounters the risen Jesus and becomes a disciple. Preaching about Jesus in Damascus, he is nearly killed by angry synagogue members. Paul escapes to Jerusalem, where he meets with Jesus’ disciples for the first time. Paul himself describes this journey to discipleship in Gal 1:13-24.
The second reading continues from John the Elder’s letter. John the Elder sums up how to live a Christian life: If we believe in Jesus’ name (have faith) and we love one another (show works), we remain-in-relationship (abide) with God, and God remains-in-relationship (abides) with us. Today’s gospel gives us Jesus’ own teaching about abiding with him.
In John’s gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the true vine. Jesus repeats twice that he is the vine. Each time, he describes different and unique aspects of his relationship to disciples:
- The metaphor of the vine and branches (vv 1-5a). Jesus reveals that he is the Father’s true or authentic vine. Hebrew scripture identifies God as the vineyard owner and the people as God’s plantings (Is 27: 2-6, Jer 2:21; Ps 80; Ex 19:10-14). Jesus extends the metaphor, telling us that he (vine) and his disciples (branches) replace the people of Israel as God’s authentic vine. God carefully tends the branches, cutting away what’s dead and pruning what remains to increase its yield (fruit). Jesus tells his disciples that, because they have listened to his word (which reveals the Father), they have been pruned and are bearing fruit.
- What happens to branches and to disciples (vv 5b-8). Jesus extends the metaphor again to include the relationship between the vine and its branches. The Greek verb μένω (MEHN-oh) emphasizes a relationship: “remaining in relationship” or “continuing in association.” Only by remaining continuously connected to the vine can a branch live and produce fruit. A disciple who breaks his or her relationship with Jesus and leaves the community stops producing spiritual fruit and becomes spiritually dead. A disciple who remains-in-relationship with Jesus (has faith) bears fruit (works). The disciple’s works (words and actions) show that he or she remains-in-relationship (abides) with Jesus.
Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season lasts six weeks to give us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. This week’s readings invite us to examine our discipleship. A true disciple remains continuously connected to Jesus, the true vine. A true disciple bears fruit. In this continuing relationship, Jesus and the disciple continue Jesus’ saving mission: to reveal the Father’s love through continuing acts of love. How is our relationship with Jesus? Are we alive, fruitful, and loving? Or are we deadwood and kindling for the fireplace?