04 May 2012

'I am the true vine . . .' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday of Easter Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003). Directed by Philip Saville. Jesus played by Henry Ian Cusick; narrator, Christopher Plummer.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Gospel John 15:1-8 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Jesus said to his disciples:
'I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away - he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.'

An Soiscéal Eoin 15:1-8 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin dúirt Íosa lena dheisceabail:
Mise an fhíniúin fhíor, agus is é m’Athair an saothraí. Gach géag ionam nach dtugann toradh, bainfidh sé í; agus gach géag a thugann toradh, bearrfaidh sé í, ionas go dtabharfaidh sí breis toraidh. Tá sibhse bearrtha de bharr an bhriathair a labhair mé libh. Fanaigí ionamsa, agus mise ionaibh. Faoi mar nach féidir don ghéag toradh a thabhairt uaithi féin, mura bhfanann sí san fhíniúin, sin mar nach féidir daoibhse, mura bhfanann sibh ionamsa. Mise an fhíniúin, sibhse na géaga; an té a fhanann ionamsa, agus mise ann, tugann seisean toradh mór uaidh; óir gan mise, ní féidir daoibh aon ní a dhéanamh. Cibé nach bhfanfaidh ionamsa, caithfear amach é mar ghéag, agus feofaidh sé; agus tógfar agus caithfear sa tine iad, agus dófar iad. Má fhanann sibh ionamsa agus má fhanann mo bhriathra ionaibh, iarrfaidh sibh cibé ní is mian libh agus déanfar daoibh é. Tugadh glóir do m’Athair sa mhéid go dtugann sibhse toradh mór uaibh, agus go mbeidh sibh in bhur ndeisceabail agamsa.

Today’s gospel was the one used by Pope Benedict when he celebrated Mass in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin last year on 22 September. In his homily the Pope used these striking words: In the parable of the vine, Jesus does not say: “You are the vine”, but: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). In other words: “As the branches are joined to the vine, so you belong to me! But inasmuch as you belong to me, you also belong to one another.” This belonging to each other and to him is not some ideal, imaginary, symbolic relationship, but – I would almost want to say – a biological, life-transmitting state of belonging to Jesus Christ. Such is the Church, this communion of life with Jesus Christ and for one another, a communion that is rooted in baptism and is deepened and given more and more vitality in the Eucharist. “I am the true vine” actually means: “I am you and you are I” – an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, with his Church.

So many are caught in a ‘Jesus and me’ mentality, which ignores the reality of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation, words from the Second Vatican Council that Pope Benedict quotes.

As I was reading the Pope’s homily I was thinking that he could have been speaking directly to the people of my native Ireland where there is a deep crisis in the Church. He says to the congregation in Berlin, Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the ‘Church’. If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and beautiful mystery of the Church is no longer seen.

It follows that belonging to this vine, the ‘Church’, is no longer a source of joy. Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people’s superficial and mistaken notions of ‘Church’, their ‘dream Church’, fail to materialize! Then we no longer hear the glad song ‘Thanks be to God who in his grace has called me into his Church’ that generations of Catholics have sung with conviction.

I sometimes feel discouraged when I read the news from Ireland. I sometimes feel discouraged at happenings in the Philippines, especially within the Church.

But Jesus tells us clearly that separated from him we can do nothing. Each of us has to decide whether or not we wish to remain united to the life-giving vine who is Jesus himself. Pope Benedict says, Every one of us is faced with this choice. The Lord reminds us how much is at stake as he continues his parable: ‘If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned’ (John 15:6). There is nothing of the ‘meek and mild’ in these stark words of Jesus.

Yet the Gospel, the Good News’ is by definition a message of joyful hope, as the Pope reminded the people in Berlin:

The decision that is required of us here makes us keenly aware of the fundamental significance of our life choices. But at the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ himself came into this world through his incarnation, to be our root. Whatever hardship or drought befall us, he is the source that offers us the water of life, that feeds and strengthens us. He takes upon himself all our sins, anxieties and sufferings and he purifies and transforms us, in a way that is ultimately mysterious, into good branches that produce good wine. In such times of hardship we can sometimes feel as if we ourselves were in the wine-press, like grapes being utterly crushed. But we know that if we are joined to Christ we become mature wine. God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives. It is important that we ‘abide’ in Christ, in the vine. The evangelist uses the word ‘abide’ [‘remain’] a dozen times in this brief passage. This ‘abiding in Christ’ characterizes the whole of the parable. In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: ‘Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!’ (cf. Luke 24:29), in this present era, the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. When drought and death loom over the branches, then in Christ we find future, life and joy. In him we always find forgiveness and the opportunity to begin again, to be transformed as we are drawn into his love.

To abide in Christ means, as we saw earlier, to abide in the Church as well. The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. In Christ we belong together. Within this communion he supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. We stand firm together against the storm and offer one another protection. Those who believe are not alone. We do not believe alone, we believe with the whole Church of all times and places, with the Church in heaven and the Church on earth.

May I, as an Irish missionary priest in the Philippines, ask your prayers for a renewal of the Church in Ireland and that the International EucharisticCongress to be held in Dublin in June will be a life-giving ‘pruning’ for each and every individual Catholic and for the Church as a whole in Ireland so that once again it can truly be a sign of God’s love for all, the universal sacrament of salvation.

Céad mile fáilte (Irish Gaelic) or Ceud Mìle Fàilte (Scottish Gaelic) is a traditional greeting, here extended to Jesus (Íosa). The following is copied straight from the description that goes with the video.

CÉAD MÍLE FÁILTE ROMHAT A ÍOSA is an especially charming version of one of Ireland's treasury of religious songs, handed down to modern times by oral tradition.

It is generally sung as a Christmas carol but also serves as a beautiful hymn for the reception of Holy Communionat any time of the year.

The recording, from the CD 'Faith of Our Fathers' originally released in the early 1990s, is beautifully sung by the RTÉ Cór na nÓg to an arrangement by Dubliner John Drummond.

'Cór na nÓg' is a choir for children maintained by RTÉ, Ireland's admirable national broadcasting authority.

For translations into English and Welsh please scroll down.


Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa,
Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa,
Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Shlánaitheoir
Céad míle míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa...

Glóir agus moladh duit, a Íosa, a Íosa,
Glóir agus moladh duit, a Íosa,
Glóir agus moladh duit, a Shlánaitheoir,
Glóir, moladh agus buíochas duit, a Íosa, a Íosa...

Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Shlánaitheoir,
Céad míle míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa...


A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Saviour,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...

Glory and praise to you, o Jesus, o Jesus,
Glory and praise to you, o Jesus,
Glory and praise to you, o Saviour,
Glory, praise and thanks to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...

A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Saviour,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...


Croeso it galon gu, yr Iesu,
Croeso it galon gu, y Waredwr ,
Croeso it galon gu a glân, yr Iesu, yr Iesu...

Moliant a bri i ti, yr Iesu, yr Iesu,
Moliant a bri i ti, yr Iesu,
Moliant a bri i ti, y Waredwr,
Pob moliant pur a diolch i ti, yr Iesu, yr Iesu.

Croeso it galon gu, y Waredwr ,
Croeso it galon gu a glân, yr Iesu, yr Iesu...

This version in Welsh may be sung to the traditional Irish melody. To make it so meant writing a translation to fit the music. For that reason it is not nearly as literal as the not-for-singing version in English.



Ruth Ann Pilney said...

I will pray for the renewal of the Church in Ireland and for the fruitfulness of the Eucharistic Congress in the lives of Catholics.

The children's song is lovely! Thank you for the English translation.

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