ONE IN THE TRUE VINE—FACTIONS IN THE CHURCH
Implanted by baptism in Christ, the true vine, and therefore, by vocation and by our being Christians, we are called to be one in him, however we often fall apart into factions because of our background of land and culture, regionalisms and differences of language, social origins and classes, conservatives against progressives. So it was in the early Church: Christians discriminated because of their pagan origins, different parties even among those of Jewish extraction. Are we any better? No wonder that we bear little fruit… Let the Lord prune and purify us and unite us all in Christ as branches on the same vine.
Lord our God, loving Father,
you have given us your Son, Jesus Christ,
as the true vine of life
and our source of strength.
Help us to live his life
as living branches attached to the vine,
and to bear plenty of fruits
of justice, goodness and love.
Let our union with him become visible
in our openness to one another
and in our unity as brothers and sisters,
that he may be visibly present among us,
now and for ever. Amen!
1 Reading: ACTS 15:1-6
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question. They were sent on their journey by the Church, and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, as well as by the Apostles and the presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them. But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.” The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 122:1-2, 3-4AB, 4CD-5
R. (cf. 1) Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. or: Alleluia.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem. R.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD. R.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David. R.
Alleluia: JOHN 15:4A, 5B
Remain in me, as I remain in you, says the Lord;
whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: JOHN 15:1-8
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 everyone 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.”
Paul respected Jewish tradition as part of his own heritage. Nonetheless, his Christian belief saw no place for circumcision as necessary for salvation. Such a position would fly in the face of the all-sufficient saving work of Christ. When Jewish Christians came to Antioch from Judea, urging circumcision, Paul saw at once the moral conflict that their demand made. It was then decided to bring the matter to the attention of the Jerusalem authorities in order to seek a definitive solution.
Paul’s perspective is characterized by collegiality. Where opinions conflict, the effort must be expended to arrive at a consensual solution. Paul has no intention of being a “lone ranger” in the matter. He wants to hear the voice of the church and so makes his way to Jerusalem as the emissary of a developing church.
There is only one avenue of salvation: adherence to Christ. Just as the branch only lives when united with the vine, so too the Christian must be one with Christ. There is no independent way of bearing fruit. Christ stands as our life and our greatest benefactor.
The door to life is opened in baptism, not circumcision. In being called to do good, it is Christ who enables us. In walking away from sin and remaining on the path of virtue, it is because we are one with the vine. There are many devotions in the church; in their variety, they satisfy many spiritual needs. But they are to be seen as ways to express gratitude for the gift that is ours, not as stepping stones to holiness.
The psalmist says it well today. We make our way to Jerusalem so we can give thanks to the Lord.
– Lord Jesus, keep your Church from dividing and competing factions; make us all deeply one in you, we pray:
– Lord Jesus, let the sick and those who suffer remember that you are one with them, we pray:
– Lord Jesus, let the new wine of your grace flow in us, that it may make us great and strong in love and gentleness, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God, loving Father,
you planted your Son among us
as the true life-giving vine.
Let him give himself to us today
as the bread of strength
and pour himself for us
as the unifying, life-giving wine,
that we may live in him
and he in us.
And that we may bear fruits
of unity and love
in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God, loving Father,
we thank you for filling us
with the sap of life
from Jesus, our true vine.
May we go on living in union
with him and with one another,
that in the uncertainties of life
we may go on believing, hoping
and building together a kingdom of love.
And when we grope in the dark in days of trial,
reassure us that you are purifying our faith
and that you are always with us
in people and in your Son,
Christ Jesus, our Lord for ever. Amen!
Our Lord tells us today: “Remain, live in me, as I remain in you.” Yes, let us stay in his love and do the things of everyday life in union with him and in his strength. And let us take him to our brothers and sisters by our common concern and love. May Almighty God bless you for this, the Father who loves you, the Son who lives in you, and the Holy Spirit who guides you. Amen!