Fifth Sunday of Easter - Fr. Henry Makawa
April 28th, 2024 - 11:00 AM

Audio Recording

“Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit”

Today marks the observance of the Fifth Sunday of Easter. The scriptural passages for today's reflection encourage us to foster a deep connection with the divine through the Parable of the True Vine. Throughout the scriptures, vineyards have served as powerful symbols. Vineyards symbolize the people of God, the kingdom, and God's rule. In the Old Testament, vineyards often represented the people of Israel, highlighting God's relationship with them and his expectations for their faithfulness. Vineyards also symbolized status, investment and wealth.
Grapes held great significance in ancient Hebrew society, thriving on the plateaus and slopes of the Holy Land. Pruning played a crucial role in grape cultivation. Unproductive branches were pruned, while the main branch was trimmed to encourage the growth of lateral shoots. This process diverted nutrients to new branches, leading to an increase in fruit yield. Neglecting this process would result in rampant vine growth, ultimately leading to diminished financial returns.
Jesus utilizes the grapevine as a metaphor to explain the essence of His relationship with His prospective disciples. Through this allegory, He underscores that, He is the ultimate wellspring of truth and vitality. Similar to how grapes require connection to the vine for thriving, we too must maintain a profound connection to Christ in order to yield the fruits of faith and righteousness in our daily existence. Prior to His departure for Gethsemane, He instructed the Apostles on the manner in which they must conduct themselves to remain His followers; Their lives must be wholly anchored in Him and His teachings. He beckons His disciples to be united with Him in order to be productive in their ministry.
Our connection with God traces back to the origins of humanity, as stated in the Bible: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). God has molded us in His own likeness so that we may extend His compassion and affection to others, especially to those who, through Jesus, have become dear to us and no longer distant or competitive. The love of Christ is all-encompassing and does not show favoritism. We are identified as a church or religion because we represent the all-embracing essence of Christ. The etymology of "religion" or “church” reveals its essence: “to be active”, "to bond together", "to re-ligament" that which has been fractured, dislocated, and broken apart. Embracing Christ's love entails our participation in the restoration of a comprehensive unity among ourselves, with nature, with the earth's natural resources, with our global community, and with God Himself.
The first reading introduces us to the transformative experience we need to emulate through the life of Saul, later known as St. Paul. He underwent a profound conversion "metanoia". This conversion marked a significant shift in Saul's beliefs and actions, as he transitioned from being a persecutor of Christians to a devoted follower of the Lord, he bonded himself to Christ and he became the true vine. With zeal and passion, Paul dedicated himself to spreading the message of the Risen Lord to the people of Jerusalem, emphasizing the truth of God's salvation and love for all His children regardless of their background, his preached hinged on inclusivity. Through his tireless efforts and unwavering faith, He played a pivotal role in the early Church's growth, navigating challenges with the divine guidance and strength bestowed upon him by the Lord. His mission to proclaim God's salvation to the Gentiles exemplifies his commitment to sharing the message of love and redemption with all. Ultimately shaping the foundation of the Christian faith. Therefore, Paul is a good example of the reflection of God’s true love.
In St. John's Epistle, the theme of love, inclusiveness and bonding continues to manifest itself. There is a strong emphasis on the significance of living in alignment with God's commandments and teachings “and love one another just as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23). It highlights the importance of glorifying the Lord through our actions as Christians. We are called to exemplify true faith in Christ by demonstrating love and compassion towards one another. By doing so, we are able to reflect God's love to those who may have not yet experienced it. It is through our words and deeds that we can truly embody the message of Christ and spread His love to all those around us. Let us strive to live out our faith in a way that brings glory to God and shines His light into the world. There are three things we can learn from our scriptures
Today’s scriptures highlight the importance of efficiency. Basically productivity here revolves around stewardship; stewardship that recognizes the truth that all we have, we hold in response to God’s gift to us. We are productive when, in response to God’s call, we return our broken world back to Him healed, whole and complete. Apart from Him, we can't achieve anything of value. We are connected to Him like branches to a vine, and only by living in Him can we have a meaningful and purposeful life.
It is essential for us to actively engage in acts of charity and good deeds. Simply being identified as Christians is not sufficient if we fail to support our friends in times of need “faith without good works is dead” (James 2:17). Therefore, it is imperative that we not only believe in our faith but also demonstrate it through our actions by helping those around us who are in need. Let us be proactive in showing love and compassion towards others, as this is a fundamental aspect of our being bonded in with Christ.
Furthermore, we are challenged that, even when we are living righteously, we still need the Gardener, who knows us so completely and sees beyond what we see, so that He can purge, or prune and purify us. While at times this pruning may seem hard to bear, it is only through this process that we will become more fruitful, the lords pruning leads to more fruit bearing. Our pruning comes in a variety of ways; unhappy life, loss, sickness, jobless. Yet what initially might seem to be a sad event and or experience can help us grow if it causes us to rely more on the Lord and to rethink our priorities. Such difficult experiences can make us more fruitful, or more like the Savior—our true vine.
As we rejoice in our Easter festivities, let us remember to center our lives on Christ. We are generously invited to align our actions, words, and deeds with the teachings of the Lord. Serving as role models and inspirations to others, guiding them closer to God and His salvation. Let us therefore stand firm in our dedication to following the teachings of the Lord, steering clear of the temptations and distractions of the world that could divert us from our spiritual paths. By upholding the teachings and values of Christ, we come together as integral parts of the Body of Christ, illuminating the world with His love and grace through our words and actions.