Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 2, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria de Sousa Alvin Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to abide in him: “Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit” (Jn 15:4–5). Christ uses the image of the vine to tell us the kind of relationship he wants us to have with him. Union with Christ should be our first priority, as Saint Benedict says in his Rule: “To put nothing before the love of Christ.” The Father wants us to “bear much fruit” (15:8).
God is fruitful and calls us to participate in his infinite fruitfulness. Today’s Word of God tells us that fruitfulness is not about doing but about being. To be fruitful means to stay united to Christ.
When we belong to Christ, we receive the life that comes from him. The Holy Spirit is the sap that comes from the interior of the vine and gives the branch life. As Saint John says in today’s second reading, “[…] the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us” (1 Jn 3:24).
Nevertheless, in order to be fruitful, we need to be pruned: “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” (Jn 15:2). Our passions need purification. The Word of God purifies us from whatever prevents us from achieving the fruitfulness of life. Jesus says to the apostles: “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you” (Jn 15:3).
In the Church these days, there is a great temptation to prioritize action over the contemplation of Christ. We need to bear in mind that the Apostles caught nothing when they went fishing without Christ but their nets were full of fish when they followed the Lord. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “Without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). The most pastoral thing we can do is to be united to Christ. “He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him” (Mk 3:14). Communion with Christ and the Holy Spirit builds community. Today’s first reading says the following about the early Church: “It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers” (Acts 9:31).
“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn 15:8). When we are truly united with Christ, we flourish. As we grow in our union with Christ, we fulfill our lives. God is glorified when we are fully alive. As Saint Irenaeus said, “For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God.”
We must strive to remain constantly united to Jesus through prayer and the sacraments. We cannot be united to Christ if we do not spend time in prayer. Although Jesus is present in all the tabernacles of the churches, how many times do we leave him alone there? Saint Francisco Marto, one of the three shepherd children of Fatima, used to spend long hours consoling the “hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle. Our prayer is most fruitful before the Blessed Sacrament, where Jesus is always waiting for us.
“Remain in me, as I remain in you” (Jn 15:4). Jesus constantly remains in us but it is up to us to remain in him. To remain in Christ means to belong to him, like the branch belongs to the vine. As the responsorial psalm says, “To him my soul shall live” (Ps 22:31). To be united with Christ means to perceive his connection with all things and his presence as the center of all reality. As Saint Paul says, “in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). As we grow in our unity with the Lord, we perceive that all things belong to Christ.
To abide in Christ means to depend on him in all things, not only spiritual and religious activities but also in our work, relationships, free time etc. When we realize that all people and things are connected with the mystery of Christ, life acquires new meaning and zest.
“Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.” Mary is the most fruitful person of all time because she always abided in her Son Jesus. May her example and intercession help us to do the same! May we abide in the Lord! May we bear much fruit! Amen.