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Gospel for Sunday, April 28: John 15:1-8

V Sunday of Easter B

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. 2 Every branch that bears no fruit in me, he cuts off, and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already pure because of the word I have proclaimed to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit from itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is cast away like the branch and dries up; then they gather him up and throw him into the fire and burn him. 7 If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask what you want and it will be done to you. 8 In this my Father is glorified: that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Jn 15:1-8

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Today’s Gospel (Jn 15:1-8) is a mashal, a Jewish literary genre comprising parable and allegory, which we have already encountered in the images of the sheep gate and the shepherd (Jn 10:1-18),
Jesus presents himself as “the true vine.” For this image we have several references:

(a) the Old Testament reference:
– collective symbol: sometimes pointing to Israel as God’s people, emphasizing its belonging to the Lord (Is 5:1-7; 27:6-2; Hos 10:1; Jer 2:21; Ez 19:10-14). Such symbolism will often be taken up by the Synoptic Gospels (Mk 12:1,11; Mt 20:1-16; 21:28-32…);

– individual symbol: often designates the Messiah (Sl 80:15-16; Sir 24:17-21), the eschatological vine that will satiate every hunger and thirst: in John, the reference is certainly to the “tree of life” of Genesis (Gen 1:9), whose fruit makes one “become like God” (Gen 3:5).

(b) the Eucharistic reference: in John, the account of the institution of the Eucharist is missing, but “I am the living bread” of John 6:51 and “I am the true vine” of John 15:1 form a diptych similar to “This is my body” and “This is my blood” of the Synoptic Gospels. On the other hand, the cup is “the fruit of the vine” in Mk 14:25 and Mt 26:29.

c) union with Jesus: “Jesus is the eschatological vine, because he is the Messiah, the remnant of Israel, the Word-Wisdom who takes the place of the Mosaic Law and animates the new people of God from within” (Panimolle). Jesus is the “true” vine, in opposition to the sterile synagogue and Judaism, but also to all ideologies (the State, Religion, Power, economics, materialism, consumerism, hedonism…) that promise life to man. Only united with Jesus does one have life: away from him there is only death. The life of believers depends on the intensity of union with Christ: any other way does not give man “true” existence (Jn. 15:1).

Only in Jesus do we “bear fruit” (Jn 15:5): this phrase was used against Pelagius, who claimed that man, by the natural power of his will and without divine help, could accomplish good: Adam had only set a bad example: and Pelagius is answered by the definitions of the Second Council of Orange (529). In contrast to Pelagius, the Protestant Reformation affirmed that man was intrinsically evil, and his freedom nullified by the sin of origins: this thesis, based on this verse, was countered by the proclamations of the Council of Trent (1546), which upheld the value of grace and the possibility for man, united with Christ, to do good works.

We need to “abide in him” (“menein ein” recurs ten times in vv. 4-10!). But the proposal of faith once again is as concrete as ever: we are not asked for formal adherence to Christ; we are not asked for intellectual assent or a profession of orthodoxy; not even a cultic or liturgical dimension. We are asked for orthopraxis, to “bear fruit” (vv. 2.5.8), to “glorify the Father” (v. 8) and for prayer to be effective (v. 7). We must transform our lives after the pattern of Christ, bringing to the world his own lifeblood, which is agapic sap (1 Jn. 4:8), that is, a love that waits for no reciprocation, that is pure immolation and service. We are “in the truth… if we do not love in word or tongue, but in deed…, if we keep his commandments and do what is pleasing to him… He who keeps his commandments abides in God and he in him… And this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (1 Jn. 3:18-24). Believing and loving: faith and charity define being a Christian: “man is justified by faith regardless of works” (Rom 3:28), but “faith, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:17).

Faith is not a static situation, realized once and for all by the sacrament of baptism, but rather a dynamic reality: we must allow ourselves to be “cut and “pruned” by the Father (v. 2: “airein” and “kathairein,” two similar-sounding verbs that recall “katharos,” “world,” “pure” of v. 3). It is the Word of the Lord (v. 3), “sharper than a two-edged sword” (Heb. 13:4) that continually cleanses us, that purifies us, that continually challenges us to make us better, more faithful, poorer, more capable of love and service, truer, more evangelical, more Christian. The believer is not spared pain, but in suffering the new man is born (Jn. 16:21). Overshadowed in this passage is not only the believer’s arduous process of growth and maturation in union with Jesus, but also the mystery of the evil that sometimes befalls the believer, and which in God’s view can have a pedagogical and purifying value.

Note how only the Father is the vinedresser: he is the only master of the vineyard, and no one can arrogate to himself the power to remove or prune the branches: this must always lead us to an attitude of abstention from judgment and great mercy toward our brothers and sisters.
“The ‘commandment’ to believe and to love is not an abstract imposition…, but is situated in the being and action of God, which becomes experienceable in Christ, and concrete in the men ‘taken’ by him” (E. Jerg). Those who have truly encountered the Lord, those who have discovered him as the only meaning of living and dying, those who “abide in him,” know how to put their whole lives on the line for the Gospel and for their brothers and sisters: indeed, “he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life… will keep it for eternal life” (Jn. 12:25).

This sounds harsh, almost masochistic: instead, it is the recipe for happiness. The God who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:10), can only offer us our fullest joy. And today’s Gospel concludes by reminding us that only in God do we have life, while away from him (the Greek “choris” of Jn. 15:5 means both “without” and “far from”) we move toward negativity and death, we are like “the branch that is cast away and dries up,” useful only to be “burned up” (Jn. 15:6).

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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