Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches”

The reading today from Acts (15:1-6) begins an account of what seems to have been the first really big argument in the early Church: whether Gentiles (that is Greeks, Romans, and anyone else not Jewish) who converted to Christianity should also effectively become Jews by being circumcised and observing the dietary and other rules in the Jewish Torah (e.g. not eating pork and shellfish). We see this not only in Acts but also, earlier, in St Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The question is settled, or appears to be, by a Council in Jerusalem and this is what begins in our reading today.

The gospel readings from John which we hear in the Easter season are full of images which Jesus applies to himself to help us understand him. Today (15:1-8) Jesus, still at the Last Supper, talks of himself as the vine. As vine trees are less commonplace here than in the Middle East we have to work a bit harder than the disciples to work this out. Vines are considered rather clinging plants; the Lord is saying that remaining close to him will enable the fruit to bear a lot of fruit. This is a call for unity within the family of the Church; the reference to pruning and the burning of discarded branches leads us to realise that some people will fall away from the Church, will walk away from our preaching of the Christian message.

Perhaps something we are learning in different ways in these days is that we can, thanks to modern technology, cling to the Church and to one another – in prayer, in shared worship online, through reading the teachings of the Holy Father and the bishops, through acts, sometimes small, of love and kindness.

God bless and take care
Fr Ashley


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