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5th SUNDAY OF EASTER (Cycle B)

Readings:
Acts 9:26-31
Psalm 22:26-28, 30-32
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: Our Union with the Lord in the Community of the Church
In today's First Reading, we hear about St. Paul's introduction to the Jerusalem Church.  He had a personal experience of Christ and came to belief on a journey to Damascus.  But he understood that he needed to become a part of the Church founded by his Lord and Savior if he truly wanted to serve Jesus in spreading the Gospel of salvation.  In today's Gospel Reading, Jesus tells us that He is the "true Vine" and we are the "branches" that are united to Him.  In love we abide/remain in Him, and He abides/remains in us (Second Reading).  Jesus uses the metaphor of the vine and its branches to emphasize the importance of divine grace in uniting the Christian to Christ.  He is the source of divine life and wisdom, and we who believe in Him are joined to Him in the same way the branches of a plant are joined to the main stem or trunk.  We are joined to divine life in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit in Christian baptism, and as branches draw life and grow from the parent stalk, so too do our souls draw life from Christ as we grow, spiritually nourished by His word and by the Eucharist in the arms of Mother Church.  It is in the assembly of the faithful that we share our love and sing the praises of Christ who abides in us, as in today's Psalm: "I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people."

The First Reading Acts 9:26-31 ~ St. Paul goes to Jerusalem to meet the Apostles
26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he as a disciple.  27 Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the Apostles, and he reported to them how on the way he had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.  29 He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him.  30 And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus. 31 The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.  It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

St. Paul, also known by his Hebrew name Saul, had been an officer of the Jewish law court that condemned Jesus to death (known as the Sanhedrin) and was former persecute of Christians (Acts 8:3).  He was on a mission to arrest Christians who had fled to Damascus, Syria (Acts 9:1-2) when he was suddenly confronted by the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and had a dramatic conversion experience (Acts 9:3-19).  According to the letter St. Paul wrote the Christian community in Galicia (Letter to the Galatians), he stayed in Damascus only a short time before going to live in Arabia.  He then returned to Damascus where he proclaimed the Gospel and after three years went to Jerusalem to meet the Apostles (Gal 1:15-17).  It is assumed that he used his time in Arabia to study Scripture and to link the Old Testament prophecies to Jesus, perfecting the arguments he would use to profess Jesus as the promised Messiah.  After the Christian community in Damascus helped Paul to escape from his enemies who were those Jews who now viewed him as a traitor and a heretic (Acts 9:23-25), he went to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles. Understandably, the Christian community in Jerusalem was skeptical of his conversion story.  However, Joseph Barnabas, who was highly regarded in the community (Acts 4:36-37), sponsored Saul and brought him to the Apostles. 

Saul's preaching in Jerusalem got him into trouble again (verses 28-29), especially with the liberal Greek culture Jews.  This was the same group of Jews who brought false witnesses against St. Stephen at his trial before the Sanhedrin where he was condemned to death (Acts 6:8-14, 58).  The Christian community then smuggled Paul out of Jerusalem and got him to the port at Caesarea where they sent him to his home at Tarsus (verse 30).  Sometime later he was recruited by Barnabas to help teach the mixed Jewish and Christian community at Antioch, Syria (Acts 11:20-28).

Acts 9:31~ The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.  It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.  At this time there was no organized, widespread persecution of the New Covenant Church, and the Apostles and disciples faithfully carried out Jesus' commission for them to spread the Gospel in the same order that He gave them: beginning in Jerusalem and Judea and then carrying the Gospel north into Samaria and the Galilee before carrying the Gospel of salvation to the "ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).  True to God's commitment to the children of Israel who God told Moses are His "firstborn" sons (Ex 4:22) of the nations of the world, the message of salvation was first given to the descendants of the Patriarchs by their kinsmen, the Jewish Apostles and disciples of Jesus.  These first Jewish Christains are the seeds of the new, spiritually restored Israel of the New Covenant that was promised by God to them through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:31; CCC 877).  In Christ, they preached the Gospel of salvation and their work bore much fruit in the conversion of souls, just as Jesus promised them (Gospel Reading).

Responsorial Psalm 22:26-28, 30-32 ~ Faith in a Universal call to Salvation and the Resurrection of the Dead
The response is: "I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people" or "Alleluia."
26 I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the LORD.  27 The lowly shall eat their fill; they who seek the LORD shall praise him: "May your hearts live forever!"
Response:
28 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; all the families of the nations shall bow down before him.
Response:
30 To him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth; before him shall end all who go down into the dust.
Response:
31 And to him my soul shall live; my descendants shall serve him.  32 Let the coming generation be told of the LORD that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown.
Response:

The response is from verse 23.  Psalm 22 is attributed to David.  It is the famous psalm that vividly describes the crucifixion of Jesus centuries before the Persians invented crucifixion as a form of capital punishment.  And the first line of the psalm is quoted by Jesus as He hung on the Cross: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).  Several other verses from Psalm 22 are either quoted or alluded to in the accounts of Jesus' Passion (Mt 27:35, 43; Jn 19:24).  It is one of a number of psalms that Jewish scholars call a "toda/todah" psalm, a Hebrew word that means "thanksgiving."  A toda psalm begins as a heart-wrenching lament by the psalmist, but the psalm concludes in a song of praise for the mercy of God and the psalmist's confidence in God's deliverance. 

26 I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the LORD.  27 The lowly shall eat their fill; they who seek the LORD shall praise him: "May your hearts live forever!"
Despite his suffering, the psalmist is determined to fulfill his covenant obligations in the liturgy of worship in the presence of other faithful covenant members.  The "lowly", in Hebrew the 'anawim, refers in the religious sense to those who are humble, pious and devout.

28 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; all the families of the nations shall bow down before him.  [..] 30 To him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth; before him shall end all who go down into the dust.  31 And to him my soul shall live; my descendants shall serve him.  32 Let the coming generation be told of the LORD that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown.
The psalmist ends his prayer looking to the future.  In these verses he professes a belief in a universal conversion of the nations to belief in the one true God, and at the end of time a universal resurrection of the dead.  In verse 32 he also speaks of the obligation of the faithful in every generation to teach their children about the Lord God so each new generation can continue to call all peoples of the earth to belief in the God of justice and mercy.  St. Peter testified in his great homily at Pentecost that David was not only Israel's greatest king but that David was also a prophet who ... knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruptions (Acts 2:29-31).

The Second Reading 1 John 3:18-24 ~ Love in Action
18 Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.  19 Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him 20 in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.  21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God 22 and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.  23 And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.  24 Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.

In this letter to the universal Church, St. John writes in verse 18 that true love is shown by action and not just by words.  Jesus showed His love in action when he laid down his life for us, and so we ought to lay down our lives for our brother (1 Jn 3:16).  Then in verses 19-20 the Apostle reassures us that God knows everything; He knows our sins and the secrets in our hearts, and He knows of our repentance and our desires to do good.  It is impossible to hide our true intentions from God.  It is as St. Peter confessed to Jesus after the Resurrection when he said: "Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you (Jn 21:17).

John's message is that the love of God is greater than our sins.  Pope St. John Paul II wrote: "When we realize that God's love for us does not cease in the face of our sins or recoil before our offences, but becomes even more attentive and generous; when we realize that this love went so far as to cause the Passion and Death of the Word made flesh...then we exclaim in gratitude: 'Yes, the Lord is rich in mercy', and even: 'The Lord is mercy'" (Reconciliantio et parenitentia, 22).  We should be overwhelmed with gratitude and love for God, and we should express that gratitude by sharing our love with others. 

21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God 22 and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
If we are obedient to God's commandments, our confidence in God should be reflected in our confidence in our prayer life.  Jesus promised us "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you" (Jn 15:7 in the Gospel Reading). 

23 And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.  24 Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.
Jesus summed up the commandments of God in the Old Testament in terms of love (Mt 22:37-40 (Mk 12:28-31; Lk 10:25-28), and at the Last Supper discourse He commanded the disciples: "I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:34-35). 

In verse 24 St. John uses the verb menei/meno meaning "to remain, abide or live"; it is the same Greek verb found in the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6:56: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives remains [menei] in me and I in him, and seven times in Jesus' "True Vine" discourse in the Gospel Reading in John 15:4-7: 4 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. 

In verse 24, St. John sums up the commandments in terms of love for Jesus and love for our brothers and sisters in the community of faith.  St. Bede wrote: "We cannot rightly love one another unless we believe in Christ, nor can we truly believe in the name of Jesus Christ without brotherly love" (In 1 Epist. St. Ioannis).  Faith and love cannot be separated (Gal 5:6).  Jesus Himself said it would be the disciple's love for one another that would mark them as His, as He abides/remains in them and them in Him (Jn 13:34-35).

The Gospel of John 15:1-8 ~ Jesus' True Vine Discourse
1 Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.   2 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.  3 You are already pruned because of the world that I spoke to you.  4 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.  5 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.  6 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.  7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  Using the metaphor of the vine, Jesus emphasizes the importance of divine grace in uniting the Christian to Christ.  In the Vatican II document Apostolicam actuositatem, 4, the Church instructs the faithful: "Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church's whole apostolate.  Clearly then, the fruitfulness of the apostolate of lay people depends on their living union with Christ."   Jesus makes this truth clear in His statement to the Apostles: 5 "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.

John 15:1 is Jesus' seventh use of the "I AM" with a predicate nominative statement that connects Jesus to the Divine Name of God (see Jn 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 11; 11:25; 14:6; and 15:1).
Symbolically in Sacred Scripture seven is the number of fullness, perfection and completion.  It is also the number of spiritual perfection and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus' identification of Himself with the "True Vine" is overflowing with symbolic Old Covenant imagery and New Covenant Eucharistic symbolism.  In the Old Testament, Yahweh used the imagery of the fruitful "Vine" or the "Vineyard" and the fruitful "Fig Tree" as symbols for Israel as Yahweh's faithful covenant people, but a barren vine or a barren fig tree was a symbolic image of Israel in rebellion against God and on the path to divine judgment.  See the section on the Vine and Fig tree in the chart on the Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets.  During His last week in Jerusalem Jesus pronounced divine judgment on Judea in a symbolic act when He cursed an unfruitful fig tree (Mt 21:19-22 and in Mk 11:13-21). He also told parables about a barren fig tree (Lk 13:6-9) and of a vineyard tended by wicked tenants (Mt 21:33-43; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19), all of which were symbols of the failure in obedience and rejection of the Messiah by the people of the Sinai Covenant and the coming of divine judgment.  

In order to understand Jesus' teaching of the "True Vine" in John chapter 15, it important to understand how the disciples associated the symbolic significance of Israel as "the Vine" in the sacred Scripture of the Old Testament.  All Jews understood that to be ethnically Israelite or to become a convert to the Covenant, like Ruth the Moabitess, is to be identified one as part of "The Vine" of Yahweh that is Israel (for Old Testament references to Israel as the "Vine" see Dt 32:32-33; Sir 24:17; Is 5:1-7; 27:2-6; Jer 2:21; 5:10; 6:9; 12:10; Ez 15:1-8; 17:3-10; 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1; Joel 1:7; and Ps 80:8-18).  Comparing those Old Testament references to Israel as "the Vine" with the New Testament passages of Jesus' parables of the vine/vineyard during His last week teaching in Jerusalem, you will find that in each Gospel parable the covenant people are identified with the vineyard that did not produce good fruit, and in each parable Jesus prophesies His death.  Israel in covenant union with Yahweh is depicted as a fruitful vineyard/fig tree, but Israel in rebellion with Yahweh is withered and ready to be cut down and thrown into the fires of divine judgment.

In John chapter 15, when Jesus began to speak of Himself as the "True Vine," His disciples were sitting with Him at the table after the first meal of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  They knew the Scriptures, both the Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets, and would immediately have thought of these very significant verses from sacred Scripture as well as Jesus' teachings about God's judgment before and during His last week in Jerusalem.  But there is a significant difference between the symbolic imagery of Israel as the "Vine" of Yahweh in the Old Testament and Jesus' statement to the Apostles in this passage.  Jesus identifies Himself, not Israel, as the genuine, "True Vine." 

The fact that "Vine" describes both Israel and the Messiah reinforces the close identification of Jesus with Yahweh's covenant people.  In the New Covenant it is not enough to avoid sexual immorality in the sin of adultery; if one harbors lust in one's heart, the sin is already committed (Mt 5:27-28).  In the New Covenant, ritual purity laws are not enough to cleanse the believer; nor is it circumcised flesh that God desires but a pure, circumcised heart committed to living the "Law of Love" of neighbor and love of God (Dt 30:6; Mt 22:37-39).  In the New Covenant the people of God are no longer identified only ethnically as "Israel the Church," but instead, now it is through re-birth in Christ that we become God's New Covenant people reborn from above into the universal family of God (Jn 3:3-5).  Christ is now the "Vine" and those of Old Covenant Israel who follow Him are now a part of Christ the "True Vine," and a member of the New Israel of the New Covenant Church. 

It is this faithful remnant of the old Israel, who are now the new Israel of a new and everlasting covenant (see Jer 31:31-34; Rom 9:6ff; and 11:1-10), the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth are those:

These men and women will form the nucleus of the New Covenant Israel—the Catholic [universal] Church.

If Jesus is the "True Vine" then the "False Vine" has to be the people of Old Covenant Israel who have rejected Jesus.  Clothing Himself in the symbolic imagery of the "True Vine", as opposed to the "False Vine" of what Old Covenant Israel has become in the rejection of the Messiah, Jesus is stressing that God's covenant people can no longer find life in the old Sinai Covenant but must come into the New Covenant ratified by Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah whose very name means "I SAVE."

Notice that Jesus identifies God the Father as the Vinedresser.  This is significant in identifying what kind of vine is Jesus the Son.  He is a vine belonging to the heavenly order—He is the "True Vine" of divine origin.  Jesus is also the "True Vine" that is symbolic of the Eucharistic Banquet.  The fruit of the vine produces grapes that are then crushed under foot to be made into wine.  Christ in His Passion was crushed and trampled for our sins, and in His suffering He yielded the best wine of the Eucharistic banquet as was prefigured at the Wedding at Cana. We join in that heavenly banquet on earth in the celebration of Most Holy Eucharist when the fruit of our labors, the wine we offer, becomes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the blood of Christ, as He foretold in John 6:54-56.

2 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.  3 You are already pruned because of the world that I spoke to you.
John is using a play on two similar sounding Greek verbs which we translate as "cuts away"= airein and "prunes" [better translation = trims or cleans] = kathairein.  In the next verse He will use the adjective "clean" = katharos which corresponds to the second verb and unites the idea of cutting with cleansing or purifying.  God the Son is the True Vine, God the Father is the Vinedresser who prunes and maintains the branches; and the branches represent the New Covenant believers, the Church of the new Israel and those who are the "clean" people of God, forgiven their sins and sanctified through the Sacrament of Christian baptism ( CCC 877)

Notice the relationship between Jesus the Vine and the New Covenant believers as the branches.  The branches are physically and spiritually united to the Vine and receive nourishment, life and fruitfulness, from the True Vine that is Christ.   The Holy Spirit provides the life-giving "sap" of the Father's Vine which is Christ.  The Holy Spirit provides nourishment to the branches and produces fruit from the willing branches. The fruit that the branches bear is a life of obedience to the commandments, especially the commandment to love one another as Christ has loved us (Jn 13:34-35 and 15:12-17).  This fruitful love will result in the works of God working through believers who are empowered to reach out to change the world (CCC# 1108).

In verse 2 Jesus gives a warning for a branch that bears no fruit.  The significance of this statement is that to obey Christ's command to love requires active faith.  The failure to produce works of love jeopardizes the spiritual life of the branches which may become separated from the True Vine. This verse implies that it is a condition of our salvation to be part of the True Vine in order to have life eternally = salvation.  It is possible for a believer to lose his salvation if the believer chooses to separate himself from the Vine who is Christ through unrepented mortal sin.  The journey to salvation is a life-long process but he/she who perseveres in faith to the end will be saved (see Jn 15:6; 1Tim 1:18-19; Rev 3:5; 20:12; CCC 161-62).  In His letter to the Church at Sardis, Jesus promised: Anyone who proves victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes; I shall not blot that name out of the book of life, but acknowledge it in the presence of my Father and his angels (Rev 3:5 NJB).  To remain united to the True Vine is to have our name inscribed in the Book of Life and to secure our salvation, if we persevere in faith.

and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  3 You are already pruned because of the world that I spoke to you.
God "prunes" the branch to make it bear even more fruit.  If you have ever kept a grape wine you know that wherever you prune new life springs back to produce fruit.  The pruning sometimes seems sever when seemingly healthy grown has to be removed so the plant will continue to grow in the desired direction to produce the most fruit.  So it is in our lives when God the Vinedresser prunes us to keep us from growing astray.  In His fatherly discipline, He prunes out our selfishness and indifference through the trials we experience in this life to encourage us to produce, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the desired "fruit"/works so pleasing to God (Hebrews 12:5-11; James 1:1-4; 1Peter 1:6-7).  The desired result is a fruitful harvest of souls for Heaven.

 3 You are already pruned because of the world that I spoke to you.  4 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. 
In verses 4-7 St. John uses the verb menei/meno meaning "to remain, abide or live" seven times.  It is the same Greek verb found in the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6:56: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives remains [menei] in me and I in him.  The Eucharist unites the family of Jesus Christ, and when one receives Christ in Holy Eucharist, He "remains/abides/ lives" in that person.  The Greek verb "meno" is one of the most important theological terms in John's Gospel.  The Father "menon" (remains-lives-abides) in the Son (Jn 14:10), St. John saw the Spirit "emeinen" (remain) on Jesus at His baptism (Jn 1:32), and believers "menei" (remain/abide) in Jesus and He in them (Jn 6:56 and 15:4).  Just as Jesus has His life from the Father and the Father is in Him, so too believers who receive Christ in the Eucharist have life because Jesus remains/abides/lives in them.  It is His promise to us to abide/remain/live with us always, until the end of time (Mt 27:20). 

5 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.  6 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. 
The sign that one abides in Christ and Christ in him is that the believer will bear much fruit.  One who partakes of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice enjoys a mutual abiding relationship with Jesus.  This theme began in the Prologue of John's Gospel in 1:32 with God the Holy Spirit who "remains on Jesus" at His baptism.  It is developed in the Eucharistic language of John chapter 6 in believers who "remain" in Jesus and He in them (6:56).  The theme is expanded to the Father who "remains" in the Son in John 14:10, and now comes again in 15:4 to believers who "remain" in Christ and He in them.  The implications of this "remaining" are many.  A believer enjoys intimacy with and security in Jesus the Savior.  Just as Jesus has His life from the Father, so too do believers have life because of Jesus who gives them His very life in the sacrament of the Eucharist and the promise of eternal life if we persevere and continue to "remain" in Him.

What happens to unbelievers and professed believers who do not obey the commandments and are not united to Christ by means of grace?  Jesus talks in detail about such unfruitful branches in His Final Judgment Discourse in Matthew 25:31-46.  All of our works will be purified by fire, both the works that bear fruit and the fruitless works (St. Paul speaks about the purification of the Christian's works by fire in 1 Cor 3:13-15).  But in this case, Jesus is speaking not of the destruction of "bad works" or accountability for sins in one who is saved, but instead He is speaking of the destruction of the entire branch.  He is speaking of Divine Judgment and the damnation that waits for every "branch" that has separated from Christ and has become worthless.  St. John will write of that final "Day of the Lord" in Revelation 20:11-15.  Also see parallels with other images Jesus uses in the parable of the sound tree and the bad tree in Matthew 7:17-20, the dragnet in Matthew 13:49-50, and the invitation to the wedding in Matthew 22:11-14 where the improperly dressed wedding guest was not clothed in the "gown of grace" and was thrown out of the feast.  Also see Matthew 3:10 and Hebrews 6:4-8.

Some scholars suggest in this part of Jesus' discourse that Jesus and His disciples have left the dinner of the Last Supper and are crossing the Kidron Valley where there were many vineyards.  February through March was when the branches of the grape vines were pruned.  The dead branches were then destroyed in great bonfires.  Other scholars suggest that Jesus and His disciples have entered the Temple precincts and are gazing on the beautiful golden grapevine, the size of a man, which adorned the entrance to the Temple Holy Place (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 5.5.4).  The Jewish historian Josephus records that the Temple gates were locked securely at night and no unauthorized person could enter the Temple precincts except on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  At midnight, when the covenant people had finished their sacrificial meals of the Passover victim, the gates to the Temple were opened for those who wished to pray in the courts of God's house.

7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
In verse 7 Jesus promises to honor whatever request we make in His name.  Most people stop with that statement and then complain that what they have asked in prayer has not been fulfilled, but Jesus has placed a condition on our requests.  We must remain in Him and keep the commandments.  Jesus says He will give whatever we ask if we abide or remain in Him.  The way we remain in Him is to keep His commandments.   His commandments are everything He has taught including His teaching that we must conform to God the Father's will in our lives just as Jesus is perfectly in accord with the Father's will.  We see that accord when Jesus prayed to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, which John does not repeat in his Gospel but which is found in the Synoptic Gospels.  In Matthew 26:39 Jesus prays: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me; yet, not as I will, but as you will."

Therefore, when we pray, our petitions must not be contrary to the teachings of Christ and His Church, and our petitions must be obedient to the will of God for our lives.  CCC#: "The prayer of faith consists not only in saying 'Lord, Lord,' but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father.  Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan."  When we are faithful and obedient to the will of the Father in our lives, St. Paul promised that ... all things work for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).

Catechism References:
Psalm 22 (CCC 304); 22:27 (CCC 716)
1 John 3:19-24 (CCC 2845); 3:19-20 (CCC 208, 1781); 3:21 (CCC 2778); 3:23 (CCC 2631)
John 15:1-5 (CCC 755); 15:1-4 (CCC 1988); 15:3 (CCC 517); 15:4-5 (CCC 787); 15:5 (CCC 308, 737, 859, 864, 1694, 2074, 2732); 15:7 (CCC 2615); 15:8 (CCC 737)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015