In the late 1980s, a fire destroyed a building on the lower East side of Manhattan. An alarm was sounded and the trucks and personnel arrived in plenty of time to fight the fire. The exit doors worked properly. The steps were clear. The people got out of the building quickly and in order. However, the fire burned out of control and the building had to be demolished. When the firemen arrived, the hoses on the wall were installed properly. There were hoses hundreds of feet in length--clearly sufficient to put the fire out. It was discovered too late, however, that the city water line had never been connected to this part of the system. It was a deadly oversight. To live a human life disconnected from the living God is tragic as well. Jesus did more than coming to live among us. He is the life-giving vine and we are the branches.
The vine and branches are part of Jesus’ farewell discourse during the last supper. Through the parable of vine and branches, Jesus assures them of his presence with them through the life-giving Spirit whom he will send. In the Old Testament, we can see several passages of Israel as vine and vineyard. We read Psalm 80:9 “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out nations and planted it.” We see in the book of Isaiah 5:1-7, the song of the vineyard. 27:2, “On that day—The pleasant vineyard, sing about it!” Jeremiah chapter 2 talks about the identity of Israel and words 21, we read, “I had planted you as a choice vine, all pedigreed stock; How could you turn out so obnoxious to me, a spurious vine?”
In the Last Supper discourse, Jesus talks about his union with the disciples and their total dependency on him for their life and growth. The vine was grown all over Palestine. This plant needs a great deal of attention if the best fruit is to be gotten out of it. Jesus says, the Father, the vinedresser seeks an abundant harvest. Father must trim away our selfishness to increase our growth in love. Jesus told them, “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” The fruitless vine branches were cut off so the other branches will be invigorated. The fruit of the righteousness is strengthened in us by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
The vine is part of Jewish imagery and the very symbol of Israel. In the Gospel, Jesus clothed himself the same imagery. Jesus is the vine and apostles were the branches. Jesus, in the Last Supper discourse, stresses that Israelites find their new life in the new covenant established by Jesus. In the Last Supper discourse, Jesus invited them to “abide” in Christ (15:4-5) which connects to the Bread of Life discourse from chapter 6 (56). The other Gospels make an explicit link between the “fruit of the vine” and the Eucharistic meal (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; and Luke 22:18).
This Gospel passage follows the new commandment of Love. "I am the vine…you are the branches." For the vine, there is not much of a trunk. Jesus has identified himself with us. It is about a relationship with Jesus. Suppose a branch comes off from a tree during a storm, it dies. It is because that branch is no longer a part of the tree or vine. It lost its life. This weekend the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, testifies to the abundance of spiritual fruits yielded by the apostles because of their close bond with the risen Lord. John, in his first letter to the Church, explains that only if we remain united to Christ by putting our faith in him and drawing our spiritual strength from him, will we be able to obey God’s commandments, especially the commandment of love.
What matters is the Love of Christ that we have been empowered to make real in the world. During Easter time we celebrate the gift of the Lord’s life we received at Baptism. We continually fed and nourished at the Alar. We need to be determined to strengthen this life within us. That is how we stay closer to him and bring God’s love to others. We need to be connected to Christ-like a vine and branches to receive life abundantly, so we can share with many.