Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2009
...I am the vine, you are the branches...
Jesus' discourse on the vine and the branches presents a very rich allegory: faith, trials, communion, spiritual gifts, good works, a life-giving relationship, salvation. I once had a lively debate with a fundamentalist friend with his contention of "once saved, always saved". How can he reconcile this with Jesus' assertion that the branches that does not remain in the vine are gathered, thrown and burned? In the first place, if the branch was once connected, and then was broken off later (as it did not bear fruit), it was clear that the branch basked in God's graces at one time but did not elect to stay connected. The branch did not bear fruit - good works to my mind. This is another flash point, as fundamentalists reject the salvific value of good works: faith is enough. Catholics on the other hand say: faith AND good works. I remember he launched into a Pauline discourse to the effect that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Sure I say, but we retain the will to accept or reject God's grace. He insists that Jesus' death would have been meaningless if "faith only" was not enough. But it's ok, although our discussion goes on in circles, this fundamentalist guy remains my friend even as we exasperate each other. I pray he gets to swim across the Tiber sometime.
Speaking of vines, I have this peculiar vine in our garden that never fails to be a conversation piece with visitors. Funny thing is I don't even know the name of the plant, as I just inherited it from the previous owner. I transferred a sapling about two years ago and now it has grown to over 20 feet. Notice how it climbs up the wall with apparently no support except that its leaves seem to attach themselves tenaciously to the wall. Its round, flat leaves seem adapted to attaching to flat walls like there were an adhesive. It must also have a pretty sturdy stem underneath, as this part of the garden is buffeted by fairly strong winds. I think it is the collective strength of the leaves attached to a strong stem that makes the entire thing flourish in spite of the strong winds. That is why even many typhoons cannot strip this plant - the leaves provide strength to each other. Hmm, I think there's more to add to the allegory.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Fifth Sunday of Easter