Lectio Divina: John 15:9-11
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
You want Your Church
to be open to all persons and all nations,
for Your Son was available to all
and Your love all people.
God, give us open minds
and open hearts.
Save us from our narrow prejudices
and stop us from trying to create people
in our own image and likeness.
We ask You this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 15:9-11
Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. "I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete."
• The reflection around the parable of the vine includes verses 1 to 17. Today we will mediate on verses 9 to 11; the day after tomorrow, the Gospel skips verses 12 to 17 and begins with verse 18, which speaks about another theme. This is why, today, we include in a brief comment, verses 12 to 17, because in them blossoms the flower and the parable of the vine shows all its beauty.
• Today’s Gospel is formed of only three verses which continue from yesterday’s Gospel and give more light to be able to apply the comparison of the vine to the life of the community. The community is like a vine. It goes through difficult moments. It is the time of the pruning, a necessary moment in order to be able to bear more fruit.
• John 15:9-11: Remain in My love, source of perfect joy. Jesus remains in the love of the Father, by observing the commandments which He receives from Him. We remain in the love of Jesus by observing the commandments which He has left for us. And we should observe them in the same way in which He observed the commandments of the Father: “If you keep My commandments you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love”. It is in this union of the love of the Father and of Jesus that the source of true joy is found: “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy be complete.”
• John 15:12-13: Love one another as I have loved you. The commandment of Jesus is only one: “To love one another, as He has loved us!” (Jn 15:12). Jesus goes beyond the Old Testament. The ancient criterion was: “You will love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18). The new criterion is, “That you love one another, as I have loved you.” Here He utters the sentence which we sing even until now: “Nobody has greater love than this: to give one’s life for one’s friends!”
• John 15:14-15: Friends and not servants. “You are My friends if you do what I command you”, that is, the practice of love up to the total gift of self! Immediately after, Jesus adds a very high ideal for the life of the disciples. He says, “I shall no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learned from My Father!” Jesus had no more secrets for His disciples. He has told us everything He heard from the Father! This is the splendid ideal of life in community: to attain a total transparency, to the point of not having any secrets among ourselves and of being able to have total trust in one another, to be able to share the experience of God and of life that we have, and in this way enrich one another reciprocally. The first Christians succeeded in attaining this ideal during several years. They were “one only heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32; 1:14: 2:42, 46).
• John 15:16-17: Jesus has chosen us. We have not chosen Jesus. He has chosen us. He has called us and has entrusted us the mission to go and bear fruit, fruit which will last. We need Him, but He also needs us and our work in order to be able to continue to do today what He did for the people of Galilee. The last recommendation: “My command to you is to love one another!”
• The symbol of the vine in the Bible. The people of the bible cultivated the vine and produced good wine. The harvest of the grapes was a feast with songs and dances, and this gave origin to the song of the vine, used by the prophet Isaiah. He compares the people of Israel to the vine (Isa 5:1-7; 27:2-5; Ps 80:9, 19). Before him, the prophet Hosea had already compared Israel to an exuberant vine, the more fruit that it produced, the more it multiplied its idolatries (Hos 10:1). This theme was used by Jeremiah, who compares Israel to a bastard vine (Jer 2:21), from which the branches were uprooted (Jer 5:10; 6:9). Jeremiah uses these symbols because he himself had a vine which had been trampled on and devastated by the invaders (Jer 12:10). During the slavery of Babylonia, Ezekiel used the symbol of the vine to denounce the infidelity of the people of Israel. He told three parables on the vine: 1) the vine which is burnt and is good for nothing (Ezek 15:1-8); 2) the false vine planted and protected by two waters, symbols of the kings of Babylonia and of Egypt, enemies of Israel. (Ezek 17:1-10); and 3) the vine destroyed by the oriental wind, image of the slavery of Babylonia (Ezek 19:10-14). The comparison of the vine was used by Jesus in several parables: the laborers of the vineyard (Mt 21:1-16); the two sons who have to work in the vineyard (Mt 21:32-33); the parable of the wicked tenants, who did not pay the landowner, beat the servants, and killed the son of the landowner (Mt 21:33-45); the barren fig tree planted in the vineyard (Lk 13:6-9); and the vine and its branches (Jn 15: 1-17).
4) Personal questions
• We are friends and not servants. How do I consider this in my relationship with other people?
• Consider what "friend" really means to you: If you came out of the kitchen with the last bowl of soup there, and your friend was sitting there, would you tell him/her there was no more, or would you offer to share it, or would you give it all to him/her? If you gave it all, would you sit there and look hungry or sad, or would you go back to the kitchen to make it look like you had some too so your friend would have no bad feelings about eating? Ask, what have I done in my past? This scene summarizes our options as Christians to our friends.
• It is easy to see and think about necessities such as food in this context, especially as they are used so frequently in biblical references, but it is not limited to this. Consider if I am talking in a group and another joins who perhaps is not as confident in the language I am using. Do I slow down, or use easier words, so that the friend who has just joined the conversation may understand more? Do I help him/her, or do I just continue, not considering such things? Do I make an effort to understand his/her needs in this at all? Or do I just go on, either ignorant of my friend's needs or handicaps, or being critical of them? Do I say "come with me and I will help you" and take personal interest in your friend, or do I just give him/her the name of a tutor and I am done with it?
• Who is my friend? Is there a boundary? Do I treat those in my community as different friends than those on the street? Can a stranger be a friend? If, in the soup question, it wasn't a friend at the table, but instead a knock at the door and a beggar was there, how would I answer differently?
• To love as Jesus has loved us. How does this ideal of love grow in me?
5) Concluding Prayer
Proclaim His salvation day after day,
declare His glory among the nations,
His marvels to every people! (Ps 96:2-3)