A reflection for the fifth Sunday of Easter

John W. Farrell reflects on the readings for April 28, 2024.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Acts 9:26 – 31
Psalms 22:26 – 27, 28, 30, 31 – 32
1 John 3:18 – 24
John 15:1 – 8

Reflection: Remaining on the vine

This chapter is considered part of what scholars call the “farewell discourses” in the Gospel of John: Jesus’ last words to his disciples before the last supper, and his arrest and passion.

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 every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”

What’s interesting about this is that “vine” was a common image for God’s people, going back, for example, to the book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible. But here it suggests immediately thoughts of spring. Of planting. Cutting and pruning. Applied to ourselves, as Jesus’s disciples, it sounds painful, destructive, as nature is. But in this case, I think it is the care and attention of God the father that is foremost in Jesus’ message to his disciples:

“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.”

This is fundamentally relational. It’s no longer possible for the individual disciples to be considered in isolation: one must realize they are always directly connected to Jesus, and through him, to his father.


“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.”

We can’t help focusing on the almost apocalyptic nature of the statement. And in another passage of the gospel, we recall when Jesus cursed the fig tree because it offered no fruit. But at its root, this passage in the Gospel of John is about being part of something greater than just yourself.

“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.”

Here Jesus is describing his relationship both to his father and to his disciples. But the relational view holds when we step further back and remember Jesus and his relation to the Father and the Holy Spirit in the concept of the trinity. It too is fundamentally relational. This is a striking way for Jesus to prompt his disciples to keep the commandments, which he does in the passage immediately after today’s readings. And in the end, it’s in keeping his commandments that our fruit is ultimately born on this vine of Christ.

About the author

John W. Farrell

John W. Farrell is the author most recently of The Clock and the Camshaft: And Other Medieval Inventions We Still Can’t Live Without. He has written for Commonweal, Aeon, New Scientist, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, Forbes, and The Tablet.

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