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Gospel for Sunday, May 2: John 15: 1-8

V SUNDAY OF EASTER

1I am the true vine and my Father is the farmer. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he cuts, and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes so that it bears more fruit. 3You are already pure, because of the word that I announced to you. 4Remain in me and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains in the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; then they pick it up, throw it into the fire and burn it. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8In this my Father is glorified: that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

John 15: 1-8

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

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 including parables 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 various references:

a) the reference to the Old Testament:

– collective symbol: sometimes indicates Israel as the people of God, underlining its belonging to the Lord (Is 5.1-7; 27.6-2; Hos 10.1; Jer 2.21; Ez 19.10-14) . This symbolism will often be taken up by the Synoptic Gospels (Mk 12,1.11; Mt 20,1-16; 21,28-32…);

– individual symbol: it often designates the Messiah (Ps 80,15-16; Sir 24,17-21), the eschatological vine that will satisfy every hunger and thirst: in John, the reference is certainly to the “tree of life” of Genesis (Gen 1.9), whose fruits make one “become like God” (Gen 3.5).

b) the Eucharistic reference: in John the story 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 it 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 that 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 the ideologies (the State, Religion, Power, the economy, materialism, consumerism, hedonism…) that promise life to man. Only united with Jesus can we have life: far from him there is only death. The life of believers depends on the intensity of the union with Christ: any other path does not give “true” existence to man (Jn 15.1).

It is therefore necessary to “abide in him” (“menein ein” occurs ten times in vv. 4-10!). But the proposal of Faith is once again more concrete than ever: we are not asked to formally adhere 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 an orthopraxy, 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 on the model of Christ, bringing to the world his own lifeblood, which is agapic lifeblood (1 Jn 4.8), that is, a love that does not expect reciprocation, which is pure immolation and service. We are “in the truth… if we do not love with words or with the tongue, but with deeds…, if we observe his commandments and do what is pleasing to him… He who keeps his commandments abides in God and he in him… And this it is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (1 John 3:18-24). Believing and loving: faith and charity define being Christian: “man is justified by faith independently of works” (Rom 3.28), but “faith, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2 ,17).

Faith then is not a static situation, created once and for all by the sacrament of baptism, but rather a dynamic reality: one must allow oneself to be “cut and pruned” by the Father (v. 2: “airein” and “kathairein”, two verbs from similar sound that recalls “katharos”, “world”, “pure” of v. 3). It is the Word of the Lord (v. 3), “sharper than a double-edged sword” (Heb 13.4) which continually cleanses us, which purifies us, which continually puts us in crisis to make us better, more faithful, poorer, more capable of love and service, more true, more evangelical, more Christian.

Whoever has truly met the Lord, who has discovered him as the only meaning of living and dying, who “remains in him”, knows how to put his whole life on the line for the Gospel and for his brothers: indeed, “whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life… will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25).

It seems like a harsh, almost masochistic statement: instead it is the recipe for happiness. The God who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:10), cannot help but offer us our fullest joy. And today’s Gospel concludes by reminding us that only in God do we have life, while far from him (the Greek “choris” of John 15.5 means both “without” and “far from”) we move towards negativity and death, we are like “the branch that is thrown away and withers”, useful only to be “burned” (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 migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

Source

Spazio Spadoni

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