Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. 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. 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. 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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
The Gospel reading for the 5th Sunday of Easter, as well as one of the following Easter weekdays, comes from Jesus’ “Last Supper” discourse. Taken as a whole, this discourse is for me both a source of discomfort and a source of peace. But this passage? This passage reaches deep into my heart, speaks into my soul in a special way.
John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” uses the word “remain” no less than 8 times in this brief passage, and at least 3 more times in the verses immediately following. I felt like that had to mean something. I sat and read the passage before heading off to Mass on that 5th Sunday of Easter, and I couldn’t quite put it away.
Remain. “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” That line especially sings for me. As I sat with it that morning, it occurred to me to explore the words in greater depth, so I began looking for definitions of remain. I found several:
The most obvious, of course, was “continue to exist, especially after other similar or related people or things have ceased to exist.”
Next, I found “continue to possess a particular quality or fulfill a particular role.”
Then this: “to be a part not destroyed, taken, or used up.”
And finally: “to stay in a place and not leave it.”
So I jotted down all of these definitions on my notepad, and I let the whole thing percolate for awhile. Then, on the 6th Sunday of Easter, one of our priests delivered the most amazing homily based on the next few verses of this passage. He talked about how St. Thomas Aquinas had written of this passage, analyzing it word by word. After listening, I knew I needed to explore these ideas further.
I’m no St. Thomas, nor am I a Father Mike (who, by the way, is a gifted homilist and a blessing to our parish). But I do love to reflect on meanings and messages in scripture, and I love to write about my reflections.
So this morning, I’m thinking about that line: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” I saw that we get our very existence from and through Jesus – He is the Word by which God created all things, so we very much continue to exist in Him. Our existence in Jesus continues into eternity – long after all other things have ceased to exist. And that next phrase, “as I remain in you”? I think St. Thomas spent some time with the word “as,” and I know that Fr. Mike did on Sunday as well. We can see “as” in the light of an identical state; we could also read it as suggesting a state similar in nature while not precisely identical in execution. After I pondered those points of view for awhile, I found myself seeing the word as suggesting “while,” and there I found the greatest enlightenment and comfort.
“Remain in me [while] I remain in you.” How long does Jesus remain, then? He answered that question Himself: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). So He is telling me to remain – exist, stay, be a part of, fulfill my role – in Him always, for He remains in that same way with me – always.
As I sat and savored that knowledge and certainty for a moment, all the rest of the passage stood crystal clear in front of me. With Jesus as the core of my existence, with my openness to the grace that keeps Him there, everything in my life is fruitful. And I know that is true, because of the promise Jesus makes: If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
Father in Heaven, I know what I want. I want to remain in Your Son always, and for His words to remain in me. I want to exist in Him, stay in Him, fulfill my role as Your child in the light of His grace. I rely on Jesus’ promise, and the one thing I ask of You is the grace to remain in Him. Amen.
Leave a Reply