The vine and the branches

April 25, 2024 at 10:29 a.m.


A message from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for the 5th Sunday of Easter

There’s an old saying that you probably have heard or even said many times: “Don’t tell me that you love me…show me.”

I thought of that phrase when I read the second reading from the First Letter of John for the Fifth Sunday of Easter where the author writes, “let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

Different words that make the same point as the old saying!  Our love must be real.  It isn’t enough, as they say, to “talk the talk.” We have to “walk the walk in Christ” by following the path he trod and by staying with it.

“Remain in me,” Jesus says in John’s Gospel “as I remain in you.” We know, in faith, that God is always present to us, especially in the Eucharist.  But we have to ask ourselves, in light of John’s Gospel passage, “Are we always present to him?

In the Eucharist, we “always” experience the “presence of Christ.”  In the Eucharist, we are “always” given the opportunity to “remain in him” as he “remains in and with us.”

I remember hearing a story about a parish where an old man used to come into the church and sit for hours before the tabernacle. One day, the parish priest, moved by curiosity, went over to the man and asked him, “Sam, you are here for hours every day in church. What do you pray for?” 

The humble old man looked at the priest and then back at the tabernacle, saying as he did so, “Nothing really. I just look at him and he looks at me. That’s all I need.”

“Remain in me as I in you.”

“Don’t tell me that you love me, show me.”

“Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Easter is a particular favorite of mine. “I am the true vine, you are the branches,” Jesus says to his disciples.  This passage is one of seven instances in John’s Gospel where Jesus begins his teaching with the words, “I am.”

“I am the bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger (John 6: 35).”  “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life (John 8: 12).”  “I am the Gate...I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, last week’s Gospel (John 10: 9-11).”  “I am the Resurrection and the life...whoever believes in me shall never die (John 11: 25).”  “I am he Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14: 6).”  And, of course, today’s Gospel passage, “I am the true vine and you are the branches (John 15: 5).”

Interesting thing about these seven sayings ...in the Old Testament, while speaking to God, Moses asked him for his name to tell the People of Israel. And God responded, “I am ... tell them ‘I am’ sent you (Exodus 3: 13-14).” And here, today, Jesus is showing his connection to God his Father by revealing, by sharing his very identity, “I am.” 

“I am the true vine, you are the branches.” Here is an image of our relationship with Christ. “Remain in me as I remain in you.” What a great encouragement comes to us in Sunday’s Gospel. The disciples heard it, knew it, believed it, were willing to die for it. Each Sunday of the Easter season we have been witnessing in the Acts of the Apostles the heroic preaching and deeds of Peter, Paul originally named Saul, and all the disciples. They remained in Jesus and he in them and great deeds were accomplished, not just words spoken.

Our second reading proclaims:  “God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them” (1 John 3: 20-24).

Here in Church, whether at Mass or simply before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, we experience the place where that process is real and the visible sign of our mutual “remaining.” We look at him. He looks at us. But don’t just tell him that you love him; show him. And show that love to one another. This is the gift he gives us; this is what he asks of us, branches on the true vine. This is what the Eucharist is all about. “Remain in me as I remain in you.”



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A message from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for the 5th Sunday of Easter

There’s an old saying that you probably have heard or even said many times: “Don’t tell me that you love me…show me.”

I thought of that phrase when I read the second reading from the First Letter of John for the Fifth Sunday of Easter where the author writes, “let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

Different words that make the same point as the old saying!  Our love must be real.  It isn’t enough, as they say, to “talk the talk.” We have to “walk the walk in Christ” by following the path he trod and by staying with it.

“Remain in me,” Jesus says in John’s Gospel “as I remain in you.” We know, in faith, that God is always present to us, especially in the Eucharist.  But we have to ask ourselves, in light of John’s Gospel passage, “Are we always present to him?

In the Eucharist, we “always” experience the “presence of Christ.”  In the Eucharist, we are “always” given the opportunity to “remain in him” as he “remains in and with us.”

I remember hearing a story about a parish where an old man used to come into the church and sit for hours before the tabernacle. One day, the parish priest, moved by curiosity, went over to the man and asked him, “Sam, you are here for hours every day in church. What do you pray for?” 

The humble old man looked at the priest and then back at the tabernacle, saying as he did so, “Nothing really. I just look at him and he looks at me. That’s all I need.”

“Remain in me as I in you.”

“Don’t tell me that you love me, show me.”

“Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Easter is a particular favorite of mine. “I am the true vine, you are the branches,” Jesus says to his disciples.  This passage is one of seven instances in John’s Gospel where Jesus begins his teaching with the words, “I am.”

“I am the bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger (John 6: 35).”  “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life (John 8: 12).”  “I am the Gate...I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, last week’s Gospel (John 10: 9-11).”  “I am the Resurrection and the life...whoever believes in me shall never die (John 11: 25).”  “I am he Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14: 6).”  And, of course, today’s Gospel passage, “I am the true vine and you are the branches (John 15: 5).”

Interesting thing about these seven sayings ...in the Old Testament, while speaking to God, Moses asked him for his name to tell the People of Israel. And God responded, “I am ... tell them ‘I am’ sent you (Exodus 3: 13-14).” And here, today, Jesus is showing his connection to God his Father by revealing, by sharing his very identity, “I am.” 

“I am the true vine, you are the branches.” Here is an image of our relationship with Christ. “Remain in me as I remain in you.” What a great encouragement comes to us in Sunday’s Gospel. The disciples heard it, knew it, believed it, were willing to die for it. Each Sunday of the Easter season we have been witnessing in the Acts of the Apostles the heroic preaching and deeds of Peter, Paul originally named Saul, and all the disciples. They remained in Jesus and he in them and great deeds were accomplished, not just words spoken.

Our second reading proclaims:  “God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them” (1 John 3: 20-24).

Here in Church, whether at Mass or simply before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, we experience the place where that process is real and the visible sign of our mutual “remaining.” We look at him. He looks at us. But don’t just tell him that you love him; show him. And show that love to one another. This is the gift he gives us; this is what he asks of us, branches on the true vine. This is what the Eucharist is all about. “Remain in me as I remain in you.”


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