Readings: Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31; Psalm 22:26-32; 1John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

Vine and BranchAt this time of the year, vines and branches are visible reminders of the changes in nature as we observe landscapers cleaning the ravages of winter to make room for spring to enter full force. During Easter week, in between snowfalls and on my way to a funeral, I drove through an otherwise quiet suburb filled with sounds of landscapers pruning bushes and trees. I was thrust into a universe of neat bundles of dead branches and leaves placed at curbs waiting to be picked up by the town sanitation trucks. I could not help but be reminded of today’s Gospel reading both because I was surrounded by vines, branches and those pruning them, and because the funeral was that of a Sister who after sixty years in religious life surely had lived out the meaning of the metaphor and experienced its relation to bearing much fruit.

Today’s Gospel reading: “I am the true vine” is the last of the seven “I am” declarations of Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel. Last week we heard another when Jesus told us “I am the Good Shepherd.” This reading is part of the Last Discourse at the Last Supper. Jesus is preparing the eleven for what is to come when he is no longer physically present with them. How are they to continue without him? These words offer encouragement and solace.

The last words of chapter fourteen are “Rise, let us be on our way.” They have eaten together, have had their feet washed, Judas has left to accomplish his deed, and they have heard words of assurance and promise. Jesus is not finished assuring them (and us) of the depth of his concern. Were they walking through a vineyard on their way to Gethsemane which prompted Jesus to use the image of the vine, an image well known to the disciples? These words emphasize the disciple’s love relationship with Jesus, and the importance of living in him to know the energy source to do good. Jesus uses the words “remain in me” five times in four verses. His disciples must remain rooted in Jesus to accomplish the mission now being bestowed on them, and at the same time know unity with each other. This unity is hinted at in today’s first reading from Acts. This is Saul’s first trip back to Jerusalem after his conversion. Barnabas facilitates what could have been an awkward and contentious meeting with the other apostles.

Today is a good day to read chapter fifteen in John’s Gospel in its entirety, imagining the feelings of the disciples as they awaited an unknown future. How important to remain in Jesus no matter the circumstances! How important to know that being and doing good will be tiresome at times, and we will all need periodic pruning to allow for new life and energy! Today is also a good day to take a walk and check out branches and vines… so much sprouting gently and quietly. What is the gift of this year’s miracle of spring and Easter 2018?

— Dominica Rocchio, S.C.

Sr. Dominica, most recently a member of the Congregation’s leadership team, has ministered in education as a teacher, principal, and in administrative positions in the archdioceses of New York and Newark, NJ, where she served as Superintendent of Schools and Secretary for Education. At present, she works on Special Projects for the Congregation.