POPE BENEDICT XVI REFLECTION XVI ON THE 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER B
5th Sunday of Easter B, 6 May 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Gospel today, the fifth Sunday of Easter time begins with the image of the vine. Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (Jn 15:1). In the Bible Israel is often compared to the fertile vine when it is faithful to God; but if it distances itself from him, it becomes barren, incapable of producing that “wine to gladden the heart of man”, as Psalm 104 sings (v. 15). The true vine of God, true life, is Jesus who with his sacrifice of love gives us salvation, opens to us the way to be part of this vine. And as Jesus remains in the love of God the Father, the disciples too, wisely pruned by the word of the Master (cf. Jn 15:2-4), if they remain profoundly united in him, they become fruitful branches that bear an abundant harvest.
St Francis de Sales wrote:
“The vine-sprig, united and joined to the stock, brings forth fruit not by its own power but in virtue of the stock. Now we are united by charity unto our Redeemer as members to their head, and hence it is that… good works, drawing their worth from him, merit life everlasting”(Treatise on the love of God, XI, 6).
On the day of our Baptism the Church grafts us, as branches, on to the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, on to his very Person. From this root we receive the precious sap that enables us to share in the divine life. As disciples, with the help of the Pastors of the Church, we too develop in the Lord’s vineyard, bound by his love. “If the fruit we are to bear is love, its prerequisite is this ‘remaining’, which is profoundly connected with the kind of faith that holds on to the Lord and does not let go” (Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, New York 2007, p. 262).
It is indispensable to remain ever united to Jesus, to depend on him, because apart from him we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5). In a letter written to John the Prophet who lived in the desert of Gaza in the fifth century, a faithful asked the following question: how is it possible to combine man’s freedom and the inability to do anything without God? And the monk answered: if man inclines his heart towards goodness and asks God for help, he receives the necessary strength to carry out his work. Therefore man’s freedom and God’s power proceed together. This is possible because goodness comes from the Lord, but it is carried out through his faithful (cf. Ep. 763, SC, 468, Paris 2002, 206).
True “abiding” in Christ guarantees the effectiveness of prayer, the Cistercian Bl. Guerric of Igny, said:
“O Lord Jesus… without you we can do nothing. Indeed you are the true gardener, creator, cultivator and custodian of your garden, which you plan with your word, irrigate with your spirit and cause to grow with your power”(Sermo ad excitandam devotionem in psalmodia, SC, 202, 1973, 522).
Dear friends, each one of us is like a branch that only lives if its union with the Lord grows every day in prayer, in participation in the Sacraments and in charity. And he who loves Jesus, the true vine, produces fruits of faith for an abundant spiritual harvest. Let us pray to the Mother of God that we may remain firmly grafted onto Jesus and that all our actions may have their beginning and end in him.
Saint Peter’s Square
Fifth Sunday of Easter B, 14 May 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, the liturgy presents us with the Gospel passage of John in which Jesus, speaking to the disciples at the Last Supper, exhorts them to remain united to him like the branches to the vine.
It is a truly meaningful parable as it expresses with great effectiveness that Christian life is a mystery of communion with Jesus: “Whoever remains in me“, says the Lord, “will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15: 5).
The secret of spiritual fruitfulness is union with God, union that is realized especially in the Eucharist, also rightly called “Communion”. I like to underline this mystery of unity and of love at this time of the year, when numerous parish communities celebrate children’s First Communion.
I would like to address a special greeting to all of the young people who in these weeks will be encountering the Eucharistic Jesus for the first time, hoping that they will become branches of the Vine, which is Jesus, and grow to be his true disciples.
A sure way of remaining united to Christ, as branches to the vine, is to have recourse to the intercession of Mary, whom we venerated yesterday, 13 May, in a particular way, recalling the apparitions at Fatima, where she appeared on several occasions to three shepherd children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, in 1917.
The message that she entrusted to them, in continuity with that of Lourdes, was a strong appeal to prayer and conversion; a truly prophetic message, considering that the 20th century was scourged by unheard-of destruction caused by war and totalitarian regimes, as well as widespread persecution of the Church.
Moreover, on 13 May 1981, 25 years ago, the Servant of God John Paul II felt that he was saved miraculously from death by the intervention of “a maternal hand” – as he himself said – and his entire Pontificate was marked by what the Virgin had foretold at Fatima.
Although there is no lack of anxiety and suffering, and although there are still reasons for apprehension about the future of humanity, what the “Lady in White” promised the shepherd children is consoling: “At the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph”.
With this awareness, we now turn with confidence to Mary Most Holy, thanking her for her constant intercession and asking her to continue to watch over the journey of the Church and of humanity, especially families, mothers and children.
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