Daily Homily: I Am the Vine, You Are the Branches

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Acts 15:1-6
Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5
John 15:1-8

In the Acts of the Apostles, some Jewish Christians go down to Antioch to demand that the new Gentile converts be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses. Otherwise, according to them, they cannot be saved.

The debate that followed probably dealt with questions like: Was the sign of circumcision (Genesis 17:10-14), the sign of entry into God’s covenant people, fulfilled and surpassed by the Sacrament of Baptism, the efficacious sign of entry into the New People of God? Was the observance of the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 28) brought to fulfillment by Jesus in the New Law of the New Covenant? Did one have to fulfill first the social, ritual and cultural obligations connected with the Old Covenant in order to enjoy the fruits of the New Covenant?

The Church in Antioch tries unsuccessfully to resolve the dispute and sends Paul and Barnabas with some others up to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles and the presbyters about the matter. This meeting is known as the Council of Jerusalem and took place around 50 AD, around two decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Paul will take up the relationship between Jewish circumcision and Christian Baptism in his letters to the Colossians (2:11-13) and to the Philippians (3:3) and the relationship of the Old Law of Moses to the New Law of Christ in his letters to the Galatians and to the Romans.

Already in the Law of Moses, there was the imperative to «circumcise your hearts» (Deuteronomy 10:16). God himself, not man, will accomplish this circumcision of heart (Deuteronomy 30:6). «If literal circumcision of the flesh was a sign of covenant dedication and membership in the people of God, ‘circumcision of the heart‘ meant an interior disposition that truly matched the meaning of the external sign» (D. Hamm, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Baker Academic, 199).Paul, in Philippians 3:3, Christianizes the Hebrew understanding of circumcision to refer to the New Covenant through Baptism into the body of Christ. Baptism truly entails stripping off the carnal body – the old self with its practices; it is truly a death to self (See Hamm, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 199-200).

Today’s Gospel centers on a key element of the New Covenant: abiding in Jesus’ love The mutual abiding between the Trinity and the children of God is the goal of Jesus’ redemptive mission. To describe this mutual abiding Jesus uses an analogy: we, as Jesus’ disciples, are branches, and we have life through the Son, the true vine, and the Father, the vinedresser. Jesus, the Son of God, abides in the Father’s love by keeping the Father’s commandments, even unto death on a cross. We, on the other hand, are empowered to keep the commandments of the New Covenant by abiding in Jesus’ love (see V. DeMeo, Covenantal Kinship in John 13-17, 361). We cannot bear fruit for the Kingdom of God unless we abide in Jesus and he in us.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Jason Mitchell

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation