Father Koch: Jesus as the vine identifies himself and us with Israel

April 26, 2024 at 11:58 a.m.
I am The Vine - John 15.5
I am The Vine - John 15.5 (Henrique Rampazzo)


Gospel reflection for April 28, 2024, Fifth Sunday of Easter

Though perhaps we often overlook them, there are multiple ways in which the Gospel writers see Jesus in fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, but also in ways in which he lives and expresses the totality of the place of Israel in the history of salvation.

On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we drew a focus to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Now, beyond the shepherd who protects the flock, Jesus also identifies himself as the vine. Once again, we are drawn to an Old Testament image that draws our focus to Jesus. The Psalmist prays (Ps 80): “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out nations and planted it. You cleared out what was before it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered by its shadow, the cedars of God by its branches. It sent out its boughs as far as the sea, its shoots as far as the river.”

Here, then, Jesus identifies himself with Israel who, though they were chastised by the Father, are yet saved by him.

The Father is the vinedresser. It is the Father who creates and it is the Father who chooses Israel to be his special possession, and leads them along the path of salvation. It is through Israel that the world is to be transformed by the eternal Word of God.

Jesus is identified as that Word. Jesus now identifies himself as the Vine of the Father, thereby making him an embodiment of Israel. This is neither the first nor the only time we see Jesus being presented as the very perfection of Israel itself.

Jesus is addressing his disciples at the Last Supper. This instruction from Jesus is part of that extensive discourse as he prepares the disciples, and subsequently the Church, for what follows and for the commissioning as apostles and evangelizers.

Grape vines are extensive and grow in such a way that they intertwine with each other. A vinedresser carefully prunes and tends to each branch on the vine so that it will produce the best possible fruit.

Each disciple of Jesus is identified as a branch of the vine. The Father carefully prunes and tends to each branch.

From this Jesus explains that there is more to being a disciple than merely being a branch on a vine. First one must remain -- though the more accurate and also powerful translation from Greek is to abide -- in Jesus. Abiding carries the added sense of resting in, remaining faithful to, and having an intimate relationship with him. Hence, the disciple of Jesus, in order to persist on the vine, must bear fruit. One only bears fruit in and through Jesus Christ, and Jesus says here that no meaningful fruit can be borne apart from him.

The disciples of Jesus -- the Church -- must abide in Jesus and be faithful and faith-filled. But it is not enough to have faith, one must live, express, and activate that faith, as well as continue to invite others into the faith.

We are called to be men and women who evangelize others -- who bear fruit by our acts of charity in service to the Gospel, and who inspire others.

When we fail to abide in Jesus, we fail to bear fruit. When we fail to bear fruit, we are cut-off from the vine by the vinedresser -- the Father -- and cast off into the fire.

This is a strong image, and one that must resonate with us as we contemplate our life of faith.

Each one of us is pruned by the Father depending on how we bear fruit. The waste is cut away so that we can become more productive and bear more fruit. These are the moments of our lives when we are chastened and either come to grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, or perhaps when we then begin to falter.

The life of the disciple of Jesus, the life of the Church, is to bear fruit to the world. So, each of us is called to live lives, faithful to our mission, and abide in the Lord Jesus.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.


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Gospel reflection for April 28, 2024, Fifth Sunday of Easter

Though perhaps we often overlook them, there are multiple ways in which the Gospel writers see Jesus in fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, but also in ways in which he lives and expresses the totality of the place of Israel in the history of salvation.

On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, we drew a focus to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Now, beyond the shepherd who protects the flock, Jesus also identifies himself as the vine. Once again, we are drawn to an Old Testament image that draws our focus to Jesus. The Psalmist prays (Ps 80): “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out nations and planted it. You cleared out what was before it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered by its shadow, the cedars of God by its branches. It sent out its boughs as far as the sea, its shoots as far as the river.”

Here, then, Jesus identifies himself with Israel who, though they were chastised by the Father, are yet saved by him.

The Father is the vinedresser. It is the Father who creates and it is the Father who chooses Israel to be his special possession, and leads them along the path of salvation. It is through Israel that the world is to be transformed by the eternal Word of God.

Jesus is identified as that Word. Jesus now identifies himself as the Vine of the Father, thereby making him an embodiment of Israel. This is neither the first nor the only time we see Jesus being presented as the very perfection of Israel itself.

Jesus is addressing his disciples at the Last Supper. This instruction from Jesus is part of that extensive discourse as he prepares the disciples, and subsequently the Church, for what follows and for the commissioning as apostles and evangelizers.

Grape vines are extensive and grow in such a way that they intertwine with each other. A vinedresser carefully prunes and tends to each branch on the vine so that it will produce the best possible fruit.

Each disciple of Jesus is identified as a branch of the vine. The Father carefully prunes and tends to each branch.

From this Jesus explains that there is more to being a disciple than merely being a branch on a vine. First one must remain -- though the more accurate and also powerful translation from Greek is to abide -- in Jesus. Abiding carries the added sense of resting in, remaining faithful to, and having an intimate relationship with him. Hence, the disciple of Jesus, in order to persist on the vine, must bear fruit. One only bears fruit in and through Jesus Christ, and Jesus says here that no meaningful fruit can be borne apart from him.

The disciples of Jesus -- the Church -- must abide in Jesus and be faithful and faith-filled. But it is not enough to have faith, one must live, express, and activate that faith, as well as continue to invite others into the faith.

We are called to be men and women who evangelize others -- who bear fruit by our acts of charity in service to the Gospel, and who inspire others.

When we fail to abide in Jesus, we fail to bear fruit. When we fail to bear fruit, we are cut-off from the vine by the vinedresser -- the Father -- and cast off into the fire.

This is a strong image, and one that must resonate with us as we contemplate our life of faith.

Each one of us is pruned by the Father depending on how we bear fruit. The waste is cut away so that we can become more productive and bear more fruit. These are the moments of our lives when we are chastened and either come to grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, or perhaps when we then begin to falter.

The life of the disciple of Jesus, the life of the Church, is to bear fruit to the world. So, each of us is called to live lives, faithful to our mission, and abide in the Lord Jesus.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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