Cycle (B) 5th Sunday of Easter

 Acts 9: 26-31; 1 Jn 3: 18-24; Jn 15: 1-8 

The Nightingale and the Rose" by Oscar Wilde is a touching short story. The first character is a boy. This boy is sad because a girl promised to dance with him on condition that he brought her red roses, but he did not find any red rose; there were white roses and yellow roses.

A Nightingale understood the feeling of the Student started to fly until she saw a Rose-tree. She told him to give her a red rose, and she promised, in exchange, to sing her sweetest song, but the Rose-tree told her that the winter had chilled his veins and the frost had nipped his buds, so he could not give her a red rose.

The Rose-tree gave her a solution: he told her that if she wanted a red rose, she had to build it out of music by moonlight and stain it with her own heart's blood. She had to sing to the Rose-tree with her breast against a thorn; the thorn would pierce her heart and her life-blood would flow into the Rose-tree veins.

At night, the Nightingale went to the Rose-tree and set her breast against the thorn. She sang all night long. She pressed closer and closer against the thorn until the thorn finally touched her heart and she felt a fierce pang of pain. The

more she pressed herself against the rose tree the stronger was the flow of her energy into the rose. With that life energy the rose produced a red flower. 

Through the parable of the vine and branches Jesus tells us that when we stand united with Jesus His life energy will flow into us.

There are numerous Old Testament passages which refer to Israel as a vine "The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel," sings the prophet Isaiah in his song of the Vineyard (Is 5:1-7). "Yet I planted you a choice vine" is God's message to Israel through Jeremiah (Jer 2:21). "Israel is a luxuriant vine," says Hosea (Hos 10:1). The vine had become the symbol of nation of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins of the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine upon the front of the Holy Place. The vine was part and parcel of Jewish imagery and the very symbol of Israel.

The vine was grown all over in Palestine. Therefore it was easy for the listeners to understand what Jesus was speaking about. The vine grows luxuriantly and it requires drastic pruning. A young vine is not allowed to bear fruit for the first three years and each year it is cut drastically back to develop and conserve it life and energy. Two kinds of branches grow in vine. One that bears fruit and one that does not. The branches that do not bear fruit are pruned back so that they will not drain away the plants strength.

Jesus says that his followers are like that. Some of them are lovely fruit bearing branches; others are useless because they bear no fruit. In order to make us useful branches constant pruning is required.

There are many things in us that separate us from Jesus. The first and foremost thing that stands as hindrance to our submission to Jesus is our "ego".

When a child is born he is without any knowledge, any consciousness of his own self. The first thing he becomes aware of is not himself; the first thing he becomes aware of is the other. It is natural, because the eyes open outwards, the hands touch others, the ears listen to others, the tongue tastes food and the nose smells the outside. All these senses open outwards. But, by and by, he becomes aware of himself. He builds up a false bubble around him. There he adds all his achievements, all his titles, all the false humility, all the put on piety and whatever he feels will comfort him.

It happened once:

A fakir, a beggar, was praying in a mosque, just early in the morning when it was still dark. It was a certain religious day for Mohammedians, and he was praying, and he was saying, "I am nobody. I am the poorest of the poor, the greatest sinner of sinners."

Suddenly there was one more person who was praying. He was the emperor of that country, and he was not aware that there was somebody else there who was praying - it was dark, and the emperor was also saying:

"I am nobody. I am nothing. I am just empty, a beggar at our door." When he heard that somebody else was saying the same thing, he said, "Stop! Who is trying to overtake me? Who are you? How dare you say before the emperor that you are nobody when he is saying that he is nobody?"

This is how the ego goes. It is so subtle. Its ways are so subtle and cunning; you have to be very, very alert, only then will you see it.

It will turn you into a useless branch that will never produce any fruit. So, prune it; identify and cut it off.

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself,” wrote George Bernard Shaw.  To create ourselves we have to attach ourselves to Jesus, so that his life energy will flow into us.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." These are the words of Margret Mead. Today Jesus wants us to be one of the committed citizens, that He may prune us; change us and fill us with his energy, to create the world that he wants.

Let us keep our ego, out titles, our achievements, our failures, our aspirations and all that may hamper our relation with Jesus away, and submit to Him; remain attached to Him and be his instruments in today's world.