The Gospel this Fifth Sunday of Easter uses the symbol of the vine and the branches to describe the intimate union between Christ and the believer. Simply put, to be a Christian is to live united with God in Christ, expressed in our love for God and others.
The vine is one of the most powerful and frequently used biblical images in the Old Testament for God’s relationship with his people. Jesus builds on this image by calling himself the “true” vine and his Father the vine grower. This image is profound, since the vine and the branches (unlike a tree trunk and its limbs) are often virtually indistinguishable, and since there is a mutual interchange of life between them.
The Easter season celebrates the abiding presence of the risen Christ in the world. Yet for many Catholics today the readings may seem unrealistic. We are doers and we like quickly to translate the Gospel vision into concrete actions and then think our duty is done. John provides us with a profound challenge –to stop, to “abide” with Jesus, to simply remain in God’s presence.
There are two examples from daily life which might help us to understand what this means. One is of a couple in a long, loving, fruitful marriage. Often for them few words are needed, mere presence is enough. The two have become one flesh and one in spirit. This is the kind of abiding or remaining with God St. John is talking about
Another example is to be found in the actions of our young people. They are frequently full of energy and life, yet despite this they often simply “hang out” with their friends, spending hours together, often listening to music, sometimes talking, other times just sitting and being together. Perhaps what we need is to learn from them and start to “hang out” with Jesus.