Acts 15:1-6; Ps 122:1-5; Jn 15:1-8
Those who are faithful to the Davidic Covenant rejoice to summon and to be summoned to the house of the LORD. Just arriving at the threshold of the LORD’s house, the gates of Jerusalem causes great joy. In this city of David, the city of peace, all the tribes are truly a compact unity. All of the sons of Israel have a seat in the house of David. This was God’s original vision—the unity of all people in Jerusalem. David’s descendant would rule over all the nations, and his kingdom would last forever. David was a man after God’s own heart because he desired what God desired—the unity of all people in the city of peace. Yet, it is in Jerusalem that Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas work through a less than peaceful situation that has arisen because of their mission to the Gentiles.
The Acts of the Apostles begins here to reveal this controversy in the early church which came to a head when some men came down to Antioch from Judea and began to teach the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised according to Mosaic practice you cannot be saved.” It is this teaching which caused the journey of Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas to Jerusalem so that they might consult the apostles and elders of the church. This early controversy was a very grave threat to the unity of the Baptized. Between some converted Pharisees, who wanted to have all Gentile converts live out the Mosaic Covenant, and other Jewish and Gentile converts, who were more excited about the Davidic Covenant being fulfilled in Christ, there was painful misunderstanding and hostility. It takes a meeting of the apostles and the elders to debate this issue and come to a Spirit-inspired resolution. The question often boiled down to this: is circumcision necessary for salvation or is baptism sufficient for salvation? Perhaps it is baptismal union with Christ that is reflected upon in Saint John’s discourse on the True Vine.
Christ Our Lord speaks to the disciples saying, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower.” Israel and all his tribes had been called True Vine to which all the nations would be grafted in order to share in Covenant Life. The Lord Jesus declares in today’s gospel that he is the True Vine. He is the New Israel and everyone attached to him can come to the Lord’s House to offer the true sacrifice of the Covenant. He is the One who is truly after God’s own heart, and in union with him all peoples are summoned and summon all to live in unity and peace. The Lord Jesus continues to reflect upon his identity and to reveal our identity by saying: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him, will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Living in Christ and Christ living in us in us is not just some mystical experience limited to the few and that calls us to live “out of this world.” Rather all that are baptized are one with the Son and are pruned and cleaned by the Father. Being a branch means doing the Father’s will just as Christ did his Father’s will. Such an obedient lifestyle glorifies the Father in our bearing much fruit and becoming Christ’s disciples. Our profound union with Christ is no escape from the world; rather, it is a profound dedication to the salvation of all people. We constantly seek ways to graft new branches onto the True Vine so that more people will be truly free. Indeed, our communion with the Blood of Christ enables his life to flow through us into the fruits we produce so that others may be refreshed and nourished.