Sunday, May 3, 2015
A Reflection on John 15:1-12 N.A.B.
By: Larry T
Lily B. is the most fulfilled and joyful person that I have met in recent years. She is sixty-something, a grandmother, a very plain woman who wears very simple and modest clothing. Her face is always lit up with joy, inner peace, and serenity. Anyone who has personal contact with Lily will go away thinking I want some of what she has.
Early Christians called themselves simply “the living”. Lily would have fit right in with them because she has found what all mankind is desperately in search of - life itself, full, and eternal life.
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus promises that if we remain in him our prayers will be answered (v.7), we will bear much fruit (v.8), our purpose of glorifying the Father will be fulfilled (v.8), we will experience divine love (vv. 9-10), and have fullness of joy (v.11). Remaining in Jesus brings joy and eternal life.
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
4 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.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
6 Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. - John 15:1-12 N.A.B.
When does eternal life begin? The three most common answers to this question are either, I don’t know, I’m not sure, or immediately after death. Pope Benedict XVI points out: “Eternal life is not – as the modern reader might immediately assume – life after death, in contrast to this present life, which is transient and not eternal. ‘Eternal life is life itself, real life, which can also be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death. This is the point: to seize ‘life’ here and now, real life that can no longer be destroyed by anything or anyone.” - Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth.
This sense of eternal life is spelled out very clearly in the raising of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25b-26a N.A.B.). When Jesus said to his disciples, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.” (John 14:19 N.A.B.), he revealed once again that his true disciples “live” beyond the mere fact of existing. They find the real life that all humanity is desperately pursuing. This knowledge filled the earliest Christians with joy and is why they called themselves “the living”.
St. Teresa of Ávila, the 16th-century Carmelite nun and reformer, herself spoke out against deadly serious Catholicism. “A sad nun is a bad nun,” she said. “I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits…What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.” This Doctor of the Church, and eminent teacher of the faith, continually endorsed humor. More recently, Mother Teresa said, “Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
Remaining in Jesus means keeping his commandments including loving one another as he loves us. It is through this relationship with Jesus, who is Life that we become “the living”. This leads us to joy and eternal life because everything will be as it should be; there will be a sense of rightness in our lives. Although it is a life-long struggle, we have Jesus’ assurance (v. 7) that our prayers for strength will be answered.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) the French philosopher and Jesuit priest said, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God”.