FIFTH SUNDAY of Easter, YR B, 2 May, 2021: Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
In ancient Jewish thought, wellbeing in the Promised Land was represented by every family living on their plot of land sheltered by the proverbial fig tree and vine. We find the fig tree and vine mentioned again and again by the prophets and the sages of both the Biblical Wisdom Literature and the Talmud.
In fact, the fig tree and the vine, not the dirt, represented the land in Hebrew literature; they evidenced the fertility and vitality of that earth, God’s creative energy working through contingent creation. Jesus assumes this imagery and applies it to the believer in an intimate, developing relationship with God.
As in Jesus’ parables—as in Paul’s image of the Body of Christ—it is not the self-reflective, conceptualizing capacity of the human mind employed to represent the believer, but an organic, physical being which is the symbol. We are far from the abstracting perspective of Greco-Roman philosophy which reified the world, but in the realm of creation which proclaims and communicates the Creator. There is no opposition between matter and spirit but a creative tension shaping creation as a fitting vehicle of the Spirit.
I am reminded that my life in God, like a grape vine, necessarily passes through dormant periods, preparing for fecundity. The image invites trust—trust in the unfolding process of growth, trust in the Divine vine dresser who can wisely prune with challenges, loss, even calamities, to improve the growth.
What can separate us from the love of God?