Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

by Angela Ostermann
March 16, 2013  

Scripture Readings: Hosea 14:1-9,[NAB 14:2-10]John 15:1-8

“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 15:4)

Following the celebration of Easter the Sundays of Year B present us with the different ways Christ relates to us and how we are to relate to Christ and to one another.  On the second and third Sundays we read the accounts of Jesus appearing to his disciples.  Last week we heard Jesus describing himself as the Good Sheperd.  This week Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower.”(John 15:1)

We have some live symbols of this gospel reading in our area.  In our own backyard, garden area we have our small vineyard.  We can ponder how the vines and branches are connected.  We can see the sturdy vines and how fragile the branches are connected to the vine.  These branches have been pruned and the new growth is evident.  Over on the eastern river bluffs we have the Riverwood Winery vineyard.  In their recent email they have just finished pruning their old vines–cutting the branches back so they will bear more fruit.  And they have also planted new varieties of grapes to increase their harvest in future years.  Meditating on the vine and branches and how they remain together even when periodically pruned to produce more fruit can be a symbol for our daily lives.

In the Old Testament the chosen people are referred to as the vine planted by God.  The Israelites were God’s vineyard, the object of God’s love and care, but they often disappointed God.  The chosen people became disconnected from the vine and failed to produce fruits of justice and holiness.  We heard tonight in the first reading the prophet Hosea saying, “Return O Israel, to the Lord, your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.” (Hosea 14:2)  But then God says “I will heal..., I will love them freely; for my anger has turned from them.” (Hosea 14:4)

Tonight Christ invites us to remain in Him in the same way He remains in us.  The word “remain” may seem static and we may prefer to use other translations such as “live in,” “stay part of.”  No matter the term used they all imply a lasting relationship.  That is precisely what this season of Easter is about.  It is a time to ask ourselves:  Are we fully connected to the vine through the living word and through the Eucharist referred to as ‘fruit of the vine’? By our actions do we show the love of Christ to all our sisters and brothers?  Connected to Christ the vine we are united to the whole Body of Christ.  If we are not in harmony with one another, with all God’s creation–both plants and animals, including humans– we cannot bear fruit.  If at times we turn away forgetting our connection to the vine, failing to be a true disciple, we have Christ’s promise that He remains in us.  We have the promise of His grace, of His unfailing love.  Believing in this promise we are strengthened to continue on the road of discipleship.

May Christ’s promise be our prayer this week: “Remain in me, as I remain in you, live on in me, as I do in you.”  (John 15:4)