Fifth Sunday of Easter
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Whoever Remains in Me Will Produce Much Fruit.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: The Holy Spirit of God’s love calls us into a unity of life and love, which Jesus describes as a fruitful vine. We belong to God. We belong to each other. Today let us ask the Lord to open our eyes to the possibilities and responsibilities this gives us.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Acts 9:26-31
Introduction to the reading: Earlier in the book of Acts, we hear of Saul (later known as Paul) persecuting Christians in Jerusalem. When he went to Damascus to do more of the same, he experienced a dramatic conversion. It was several years before he returned to Jerusalem, the site of his earlier persecutions. His first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian is described in today’s reading.
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
In those days:
When Saul had come to Jerusalem
he attempted to join the disciples;
and they were all afraid of him,
for they did not believe that he was a disciple.
But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles,
and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord,
who spoke to him,
and how at Damascus
he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem,
preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.
And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists;
but they were seeking to kill him.
And when the brethren knew it,
they brought him down to Caesarea,
and sent him off to Tarsus.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria
had peace and was built up;
and walking in the fear of the Lord
and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit
it was multiplied.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 22:26b-27.28 & 30.31-32 (R.26a)
Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. You are my praise, Lord, in the great assembly.
My vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him.
May their hearts live on forever and ever!
All the earth shall remember and return to the Lord,
all families of the nations worship before him,
They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust.
And my soul shall live for him, my descendants serve him.
They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
declare his saving justice to peoples yet unborn:
“These are the things the Lord has done.”
R/. You are my praise, Lord, in the great assembly.
Second Reading: 1 John 3:18-24
Introduction to the reading: During this Easter Season, our second Scripture reading is from the first letter of John. In today’s passage, the author is dealing with some members of the community who have defected. They seem to have believed that, as long as you have faith in Jesus, it doesn’t matter what you do in daily life. The author directly refutes that position.
A reading from the first Letter of Saint John
Little children, let us not love in word or speech
but in deed and in truth.
By this we shall know that we are of the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
whenever our hearts condemn us;
for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence before God;
and we receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And this is his commandment,
that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them.
And by this we know that he abides in us,
by the Spirit which he has given us.
The word of the Lord.
Abide in me, and I in you says the Lord; he who abides in me bears much fruit. Alleluia.
Gospel: John 15:1-8
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
At that time:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away,
and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,
that it may bear more fruit.
You are already made clean
by the word which I have spoken to you.
Abide in me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself,
unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you, unless you abide in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
He who abides in me, and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.
If a person 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.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
By this my Father is glorified,
that you bear much fruit,
and so prove to be my disciples.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
Homily from Fr Keith
My dad grew up in Cape Town and was familiar with the vineyards in the Cape. When my family moved to Carletonvile in 1955, my dad insisted on planting grape vines in the garden. He always told us that the vines reminded him of growing up in the Cape. My dad planted 10 vines along the driveway and each vine was a different variety. We would have lots of grapes right through the summer! But to get a good crop of grapes in the summer, we had to prune the vines during the winter when they were dormant. My dad would decide sometime in June or July that the vines were ready for pruning. All of us would be roped into the pruning. As soon as I was old enough to use a pair of secateurs (or clippers), my dad started teaching me how to prune. The memory of pruning the vines with my brothers and my dad comes vividly to mind as I read the gospel.
If we, the branches, are not bearing much fruit, it may be that we are not feeding as we ought upon the life-giving flow from the vine. The great truth that Jesus is trying to tell us is that if we want life in all its fullness, then we must be connected to the “true vine,” the very source of life. “Abide in me as I abide in you,” Jesus said. We draw our life from him.
With Jesus as the vine, we don’t have to be born into some particular race, nationality or class of people to belong and be part of him. Anyone can belong to Jesus’ community and receive, through this vine, the life he gives us from God. Forget what the person looks like; how expensive their clothes; or where they were born. If they are grafted to the true vine their lives will show it, that’s all the proof of identity they will need.
St John, in today’s second reading, sums up what faithful membership in this community means: “We should believe in the name of God’s son, Jesus Christ and love one another just as he commanded us.” We don’t wear special membership pins or badges in this new community. The sign that shows we belong and remain in the true vine, is that we love one another. Our love isn’t just for “our own”; we love those who are not even members. This love flows out to others from the community that is connected to Jesus, especially to the unloved and the excluded, because those were the ones Jesus particularly loved. Since we now have the vine’s life flowing in us, we will love as he loved.
In the gospel, Jesus has described himself as the source of living water and that he is the bread that has come from heaven to give life. Now, it is in the intimate setting of the Last Supper that he tells his disciples that he is the vine. Jesus speaks of those who remain in him and he in them as bearing much fruit. To stay attached and fruitful we must live committed lives. Love is the first fruit we are to bear; and Jesus has shown that love requires sacrifice and even death.
At this Eucharist we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. The vine’s life flows into the branches enabling us to live his dying and rising from the dead in our daily lives. Merely being members of the community of Jesus’ followers is not enough. Our lives must reflect the life of the vine to which we belong and from which we continually receive the will and power to live the sacrificial love Jesus has shown us.
We hear in the Acts reading today that the disciples were reluctant to accept Paul. After all, what they previously knew of him was that he had persecuted the church. Barnabas comes to Paul’s defence and protests to the disciples that Paul had seen the Lord and had “spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.” Paul proceeds to do the same things in Jerusalem as he did elsewhere, he “spoke out boldly in the name of Jesus.” He was living as one attached to the true vine. His life was transformed and he was “bearing much fruit”. Such boldness would eventually cost him his life as it did for Jesus. You can tell Paul had the same life flowing in him that Jesus did; he was attached to the vine and, as Jesus predicted, Paul bore much fruit.
We are always in the need of further pruning. We will need to remain attached to the vine and allow that pruning to take place. In the process we will have to die to what prevents the life of Jesus to flow freely through us. What will be pruned away in this process? – prejudices, grudges and the unwillingness to forgive others, excesses and immoderate living and selfishness. Also needing pruning are the contentious arguments we get into over dogma and ecclesiastical differences. There is no race, class or even church of people that can claim prerogative over Jesus, for his life flows into many diverse people and in very different ways.
The resurrection unleashed a life force into the world and it spreads like a vine, gently, often imperceptibly. Paul had waged persecution against, what he saw to be, the heretical Christian movement. Note in the first reading, he is called Saul – his old name, the name that caused early Christians to quake in fear. Using his former name is a subtle reminder that the very one who wanted to do away with the early church is now ready to spread word of it. He will spread this word not by force, but by his words and deeds of love in Jesus’ name. Saul met the Christ on the road to Damascus and now as Paul he is living a new life and direction, thanks both to that encounter and his staying connected to the true vine.
The food and drink for life is prepared for us today at our table. Come let us eat, let us drink so that the bread from heaven and the cup of the vine will strengthen our determination to remain in the true vine.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus said, “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.
If God has any “pruning” to do so that we can become more fruitful disciples of Jesus, it can happen when we are attentive to the Word at our Eucharist. What we hear may help us realize how often we have missed or ignored God’s gracious outreach to us. Having heard that Word will keep us connected to Jesus the Vine and give us renewed energy and desire to bear fruit as his disciples.,
So we ask ourselves:
- When have I felt God has spoken a special word to me?
- What have I done to respond to what I have heard?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: We turn to God, the source of all life, committing ourselves once again to the role assigned to us, trustfully asking for all that we need.
We pray for the Church: (pause) that it may be a field hospital for our wounded world.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who feel cut off from God, friends, themselves, or life itself: (pause) that God will show them how they are connected and from whom they can draw life.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who see themselves as spiritual but not religious: (pause) that they may discover God’s presence in this community and develop a new understanding of church through relationships with us.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for young people: (pause) that they may be energetic in building God’s new world.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all those receiving Holy Communion for the first time today: (pause)
may they always try to live like Jesus and to grow more like Him as they follow Him each day of their lives.
LORD HEAR US.
We pray for all communities overwhelmed by the Covid virus, particularly in India: (pause) that God will give strength to all caregivers, and open opportunities for the distribution of vaccines to all who are vulnerable.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Isaac Mogase who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine on him.
May he rest in peace. Amen
Leader: Let us pray our PRAYER FOR EASTER
Good and gracious God,
we give you praise for the greatest sign of new life:
the resurrection of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The sadness and despair of his death
has given way to the bright promise of immortality
for the Resurrection is our guarantee
that justice will triumph over treason,
light will overcome darkness
and love will conquer death.
We ask for your grace that we might live
the promise given to us,
that we might imitate the life of Jesus
in reaching out to the poor,
the marginalized and the least among us.
May we strive to make our country
a beacon of hope and justice in a world hungry for peace.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ,
our risen Lord. Amen.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: O God,
you graft us onto Christ, the true vine,
and, with tireless care,
you nurture our growth in knowledge and reverence.
Tend the vineyard of your Church,
that in Christ each branch may bring forth
to the glory of your name
abundant fruits of faith and love.
Grant this through Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: Through the resurrection of Jesus
God has redeemed us and made us his children.
May God bless us with joy.
Leader: Our Redeemer has given us lasting freedom.
May we inherit everlasting life.
Leader: By faith, we rose with Jesus in baptism.
May our lives be holy,
so that we will be united with Jesus for ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.