5th Sunday of Easter, April 28, Mutuality: a Sunday Scriptures blog

The Guinness World Record for the oldest known grapevine that still bears fruit is in Maribor, a town in Slovenia. It is more than 400 years old, and the bottles of wine made from its grapes are not sold but presented to VIPs by the government of Slovenia every year. Jesus uses the image of the grapevine this Sunday (Jn 15:1-8): “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser … every branch that does not bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit … as the branch cannot bear fruit … unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” The Maribor vine has lasted as long as it has in part because its roots “abided” in a nearby river. There is a mutuality in this rich image of the vine, its branches, the vinedresser who cares for it, and the nourishing environment. No wonder the vine and branches motif found its way into early Christian art and architecture. It pictured the essence of a Christian community, a unified group subject to occasional pruning but persisting over time in bearing fruit. “By this my Father is glorified,” Jesus continues, “because you bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” One of the scriptural meanings of the “glory” of God is God’s visible manifestation. As God appeared in a burning bush or a pillar of fire in Hebrew Scripture, God can appear in time now because we ourselves manifest God. In a sense, God’s appearance is dependent on us, on the way we “bear fruit” in our world. We make God visible and real to others. A grapevine without grapes would just be another set of leaves, not a source of a merrymaking beverage. I wonder if Jesus was thinking of that when he ended this passage, in a verse we don’t hear today: “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn15:11). Perhaps if you are able, enjoy a glass of wine today!

— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia; photo by Dudva, Wikimedia Commons

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