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This Sunday's Programme

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5th Sunday Easter B

Sunday 28th April 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Jn 15:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples: I am the vine, the true one, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that is not bearing fruit, he cuts away and every branch that is bearing fruit he prunes so that it can bear even more. You have been pruned through the words I have spoken to you.

Remain in me as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot be fruitful of itself but must be part of the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in me, with me in them, yield abundant fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is pruned, thrown away and withers. People gather such branches and cast them into the fire to be burnt.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you can ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 21:26-28, 30-32

I will fulfil my vows in the presence of those who fear God.
The humble shall eat and be satisfied.
Those who seek God will be filled with praise.
Their hearts shall live forever.

All the ends of the earth shall remember and return to God.
People from every nation and race shall worship.
All kingdoms belong to God,
God rules all the nations.

I shall serve God,
my descendants will worship.
They will come and declare his righteousness to people yet to be born.
They shall say: God has done this.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, you seek to enfold us with the love that you revealed in Jesus. May we open ourselves to the life-giving sap of your love as a branch feeds from the vine in which it grows. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

Jn 15:1-8
There are two features that stand out in this extract from this section of John’s Gospel the use of the vine imagery and the repeated use of the word ‘to remain”.

The vine was a favourite image used in the Old Testament to describe the people of Israel. They were ‘the vine’ that had been taken out of Egypt, planted in the fertile soil of Israel and cared for tenderly by God. They were, by their obedience to God’s commandments, to produce the good wine of God’s joy, the wine that cheers the heart. While wine is a treasured drink in our society, it had an even more central role in that society. Wine is, for us, a social drink or a beverage that enhances a meal, but for these people living without tea or coffee, it was the basic beverage – the alternative to water. Living by God’s commandments, the people of Israel would be fruitful, buoyed up by the joy of God.

Jesus radically alters this imagery of the vine. While the people of Israel had been called the vine, now he states that it is he, himself, that is the vine and we only have true, fruitful existence as we are part of him. In a true healthy vine, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the vine and its branches. In fact, the vine is revealed in the branches.

The word ‘to remain’ or ‘to abide’ is used repeatedly through this passage and beyond to verse 11. It has the meaning of mutuality and reciprocity. It is the word of relationship and with it, we see how deeply grafted we are to be with the person of Jesus. This is not a relationship where just ideas or interests, or even emotions, are shared but rather it extends down into the very substance of who we are.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

Intrinsic to the nature of Jesus is to be in union with others: intrinsic to him, because this is the nature of the Trinity. There is no Father without a Son, no Spirit without the love between these two. Over and again through the Last Discourse in John’s Gospel, Jesus is trying to convey the radicality of mutual indwelling, within God and between God and us and, as we recognise this reality, between us humans. We come ‘alive’ as we recognise the love in which we have been brought into existence. We come to fullness of life as we allow that divine life to flow through us back to God and out to others.

There is an extraordinary mosaic in the Church of San Clemente . Most of the vast dome is filled with the spiralling branches of the vine. It seems that the vine is the branches – which it is. This is the reality that Jesus is trying to convey. When we allow him to abide in us, we enter into that extraordinary abiding that is the life of the Trinity. We are not diminished as persons rather we come to our truest existence as persons. This is why we can ask whatever we will and we will receive it. We will be living according to the heart and mind, indeed, the very life of God.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

A good marriage is a grand thing. In spite of living in two bodies, in spite of differences of opinion, in spite of clashes of personality, there seems to be a single spirit flowing between two people. Even if separated by the world, they remain with, they abide in each other.

I can think of no better sign of our relationship with Jesus. We know that whatever we do, or where we are, his desire is to remain in us. We know the depths to which he desired to remain with us: he embraced our human condition in its sinfulness, suffered the consequences and continues to love us in his risen life. We have only to accept his love. But by accepting his love, our lives will be transformed. Two people in love inevitably transform each other. Respect and affection make them attentive to each other’s needs and desires. Love prunes them to accommodate each other and foster growth in the other. As we respond to Jesus’ love, we listen to his words and, simply by being attentive, our pruning begins: we become shaped to the person of Jesus. This pruning does not diminish us, rather our truest nature is revealed and we become a living expression of the love of God in our world.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– The sculpture on this 4th Century Sarcophagus shows the favoured image of Jesus as Good Shepherd and around him grows abundant vine from which angels are cutting fruit.

– This is the famous 12th century mosaic in that fills the apse in the church of San Clemente in Rome.

– In this modern painting, Cornelius Monsma aims to catch the emotional sense of abiding in Jesus.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week, mull on the way you are related to other people. Notice how your life blends in and out of theirs and how interdependent you are. Use this experience as an image of the way your life is woven into the life of Jesus.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

When you are at rest, reflect on some of your close relationships – how your lives are woven together. As you reflect on these see how the different relationships give you images that can deepen your relationship with Jesus.
Then consider a relationship that you feel needs strengthening. Ask Jesus to show you ways that you could strengthen it.

Rest in the love of your God.