Easter, the Fifth Sunday

O sing a new song to the Lord, for He has worked wonders; in the sight of the nations He has shown His deliverance, alleluia. (Psalm 98:1-2)

Almighty ever-living God,
constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,
that those You were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism
may, under Your protective care, bear much fruit
and come to the joys of life eternal.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people. (Psalm 22:26).

Remain (μείνατε, meinate) in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains (μένῃ, mene) on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain (μένητε, menete) in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains (μένων, menon) in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain (μή … μένῃ) 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. If you remain (μείνητε, meinte) in me and my words remain (μείνῃ, meine) in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. (John 15:4-7)”

Saints Clement of Alexandrea and Augustine of Hippo offer some preliminary thoughts on this Sunday's Gospel text:

He who has the almighty God, the Word, lacks nothing and never is in dire straits for what he needs. For the Word is a possession that lacks nothing and is the cause of all abundance. If someone says that he has often seen the righteous person in need of food, this is rare, and it happens only where there is not another righteous person. Notwithstanding, let him read what follows: “For the righteous one shall not live by bread alone but by the word of the Lord,” who is the true bread, the bread of the heavens. The good person, then, can never be in difficulties so long as he keeps intact his confession toward God. For it belongs to him to ask and to receive whatever he requires from the Father of all and to enjoy what is his own if he keeps the Son. And he also should feel that he lacks nothing (Clement of Alexandra, Christ the Teacher).

“If you abide in me,” he says, “and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.” For when someone abides in Christ in this way, is there anything he or she can wish for besides what will be agreeable to Christ? When they abide in the Savior in this way, can they wish for anything that is inconsistent with salvation? Some things, indeed, we wish for because we are in Christ, and other things we desire because we are still in this world. For at times, in connection with our present living quarters, we are inwardly prompted to ask what we know would not be expedient for us to receive. But God forbid that such a thing should be given to us if we abide in Christ, who, when we ask, only does what will be for our advantage. Abiding in him when his words abide in us, we shall ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us. For if we ask, and the doing does not follow, what we ask must not be connected with our abiding in him or with his words that abide in us. Instead they must be connected with that craving and infirmity of the flesh that are not in him and do not have his words abiding in them. For to his words, at all events, belongs that prayer that he taught and in which we say, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Let us only not fall away from the words and meaning of this prayer in our petitions, and whatever we ask shall be done unto us. For his words may only be said to abide in us when we do what he has commanded us and love what he has promised. But when his words abide only in the memory and have no place in your life, the branch is not in the vine because it does not draw its life from the root (Saint Augustine of Hippo, Tractate on John).

In more recent time, Fr Henri Nouwen was moved by the Gospel text to write: "Words for "home" are often used in the Old and New Testaments. The Psalms are filled with yearning to dwell in the house of God ... It is highly significant that John describes Jesus as the Word of God living among us (John 1:14), and in his farewell address, Jesus reveals himself as the new home: "Abide in me as I abide in you" (John 15:4). By making his home in us Jesus allows us to make our home in him. By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God. By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place.This is the mystery of the Incarnation (Fr Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns)."

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