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The Lord Is My Chef Easter Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in the Easter Season, Cycle B, 28 April 2024
Acts 9:26-31 ><}}}}*> 1 John 3:18-24 ><}}}}*> John 15:1-8
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

From the Good Shepherd last Sunday, Jesus today declares himself as the “true vine”. Notice that qualifier true vine similar with last Sunday’s good shepherd because Jesus “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11, 17, 18); so we ask, was there an untrue vine?

Yes. Jesus was referring to Israel, God’s vineyard lavished with all his care but produced wild grapes as portrayed in Isaiah’s “Vineyard Song” that he vowed to take it away and plant a new vine fulfilled in Christ (Is. 5:1-7). Jesus as the true vine is an expression of his Incarnation, of how God in Jesus Christ became human like us in everything except sin so that we in turn would become like him, holy and divine. This can only be when keep that union intact by remaining in Christ.

Jesus said to his disciples: “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.

John 15:1-4

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

Our scene is now at the Last Supper, after the washing of the feet of the disciples. Judas had already left and Jesus began his series of discourses capped with his high priestly prayer after which they proceeded to Gethsemane for his betrayal and arrest.

Imagine the solemnity of the scene, of how Jesus had shown the Twelve the meaning of his being the good shepherd laying down his life by taking the bread and wine as his Body and Blood given to everyone. All these will have its fullness on Good Friday at the Cross while it would take some time after Easter and Pentecost when the disciples will finally grasp and understand its meanings.

We are not just going back to a past event, to what Jesus had done. In declaring himself as the true vine, Jesus reveals to us himself truly God and Risen from the dead, telling us how we can share in the joy and mystery of his Resurrection. And that is by remaining in Jesus first above all, “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.”

Photo by Dra. Carol Reyes-Santos, MD at Napa Valley, California, 2023.

See how in eight verses, Jesus used the word “remain” eight times because it is not enough Jesus is the true vine in whom we are blessed and become fruitful; we must remain in him too.

There is no doubt of Jesus remaining in us which is what his being a true vine is all about; unlike Israel in the Old Testament that produced wild grapes, Jesus can no longer be uprooted because he is God himself who had become one in us. But, are we one in him and with him?

To remain is more than physical like to stay. A branch remaining, staying intact with the vine but had turned yellow and dried up is clearly not one with the vine. We can be inside the church but be detached with everyone and the celebration. We may be staying or residing in the same address and home but our heart and very self may be so far away from our siblings or parents, or from your wife or husband.

Remaining implies something more than physical presence. To remain is to have a relationship, a bonding that is deep and intimate. To remain is to be of one heart as GMA7 claims to be a kapuso which is more important than being a kapamilya or a kapatid. There is no sense of being a family (kapamilya) when there is no love in the family or at the other hand, a sibling (kapatid) is nothing if the brother or sister is your enemy. We remain with God and everyone when our hearts are attuned or inclined to God and with others in love which is the fruit of the vine, Jesus Christ.

We can only bear much fruit, be more loving, if we remain in Jesus Christ. It is an imperative, therefore in this life that we remain in Christ for without him, separated him, we can do nothing. Fruit and love are always together as shown in the institution narrative and on Good Friday.

Being fruitful is more than being successful that is often seen and measured in material things. Being fruitful, being more loving is spiritual in nature, can never be measured with what we have but what have we given. Most of all, being fruitful is depending, relying more in Jesus Christ than in one’s self. That is why remaining in Christ is a prerequisite to be fruitful.

We remain in Jesus in prayer when he said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (Jn. 15:7). But, prayer here as in most parts of the gospel does not mean asking God for anything; to remain in Jesus in prayer is to ask for God himself. It is only in having God we can truly love and experience joy and peace within despite the many trials and pains we go through in life.

In the first reading we have heard how Paul, still known as Saul arrived in Jerusalem and “tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). It must have been so difficult for Saul as well as for the early Christians too to welcome him! Saul must have a hard time convincing them he had really changed, that he had been converted in Christ while he must also understand the feelings of the Christians whom he persecuted before.

Photo by Dra. Carol Reyes-Santos,MD, at Napa Valley, California, 2023.

Let us keep in mind too that Saul’s conversion did not necessarily mean an end of their persecution; in fact, persecutions would turn more fierce later but it was during that time when the church grew so fast and wide too! That was because they remained in Christ who caused their efforts to bear much fruits no one expected.

Look back into our lives and see how when we remained in Christ and problems never stopped but that is when we are more fruitful, more fulfilled in life. Like our responsorial psalm this Sunday, “we praise the Lord in the midst of the assembly” to thank God from our hearts for all the blessings he bestows us like inner growth and maturity, feeling fruitful not just successful. Indeed, as the beloved disciple rightly noted in our second reading today, “God is greater than our hearts and knows everything” (1 Jn. 3:20).

This Sunday, Jesus is telling us “I am the true vine” to show us how God’s life is now in us through Christ and how our life is in God still through Christ. Let us remain in Jesus as he continues to reveal to us who he really is, our Lord and God, so we can share in the many joys and mysteries of his Resurrection. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
let me remain in You;
let me stay in You
when things are so difficult
and let me still remain in You
when life is so beautiful;
let me be near  and close
to You as You are in me,
speaking Your words,
doing Your will;
in my remaining in You,
may I be fruitful by bringing
others closer to You so that
in the end, we all remain
one in You.
Amen.
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