The great ‘I am’

| Father Terry Beeson | April 23, 2018 | 0 Comments
Vine and branches, grapes, Eucharist

iStock/RIDOFRANZ

Whenever I proclaim the Gospel of John at Mass, it is not uncommon for me to encounter an episode when Jesus makes an “I am” statement. And when I do, I really try to give the words an extra oomph, a little more emphasis: “I AM the bread of life …” “I AM the light of the world …” “I AM the Good Shepherd …” “I AM the resurrection and the life …” “I AM the way and the truth and the life …”

When they came to arrest Jesus, he asked, “Whom are you looking for?” “Jesus the Nazorean,” they replied. “I am,” he said. They turned away and fell to the ground hearing the words “I AM,” the very name of the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, as told to Moses at the burning bush.

With these “I AM” statements, St. John accentuates the divinity of Christ, having that intimate connection between the God of Israel with Jesus. So we come to the fifth Sunday of Easter, and we hear Jesus making two other “I AM” statements: “I AM the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. … I AM the vine, you are the branches.” That last “I AM” statement tells us that not only are we connected to Jesus, through Jesus, but we also share that connection to the Father.

Jesus lived in an agrarian society. He gives his listeners an image they can easily relate to. The vine grows all over Palestine. It is a plant that needs a great deal of attention if we want the best fruit from it. Wherever it grows, careful preparation of the soil is essential. It grows splendidly, and diligent pruning is necessary. It has two kinds of branches: one that bears fruit and one that does not. The branches that do not bear fruit are drastically pruned back so that they will not be a drain on the plant’s strength.

The wood of the vine characteristically is good for nothing. It is too soft for any purpose. The only thing that could be done was to prune it out and destroy it.

Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. We need to remain in him, but we all need pruning. The sacraments, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation, prune us to be the branches that bear fruit, to keep us connected to the vine. We lose our connection when we do not bear fruit, choosing the way of the world instead of the way of the vine, choosing our own will over the will of God. St. John says in the second reading that to remain with God, we must keep his commandments; his commandment is to believe in him and to love one another.

The fruitful branches stay connected with Christ through prayer, good works and love of one another. They bring glory to God and help others to turn toward God.

Father Beeson, pastor of St. Joseph in Miesville and St. Pius V in Cannon Falls, was ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2005.


Sunday, April 29
Fifth Sunday of Easter

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Category: Sunday Scriptures