The Community of the Witnesses to Christ[a]
Union with Jesus[b]
1 “I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinegrower.
2 He removes every branch
that does not bear fruit,
and every branch that does
he prunes to make it bear even more.
3 You have already been cleansed
by the word I have spoken to you.
4 “Abide in me,
as I abide in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit by itself
unless it abides in the vine,
so you cannot bear fruit
unless you abide in me.
5 “I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me, and I in him,
will bear much fruit.
Apart from me you can do nothing.
6 Whoever does not abide in me
will be thrown away like a withered branch.
Such branches are gathered up,
thrown into the fire, and burned.
7 “If you abide in me
and my words abide in you,
you may ask for whatever you wish,
and it will be done for you.
8 By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me,
so have I loved you.
Remain in my love.
10 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.
11 “I have told you these things
so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete.
Love as Jesus Does[c]
12 “This is my commandment:
love one another
as I have loved you.
13 No one can have greater love
than to lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends
if you do what I command you.
15 “I shall no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know
what his master is doing.
I have called you friends
because I have revealed to you
everything that I have heard from my Father.
16 “You did not choose me.
Rather, I chose you.
And I appointed you
to go out and bear fruit,
fruit that will remain,
so that the Father may give you
whatever you ask him in my name.
17 The command I give you is this:
love one another.
Witnesses to Jesus in the Face of the World’s Hatred[d]
18 “If the world hates you,
be aware that it hated me
before it hated you.
19 If you belonged to the world,
the world would love you as its own.
But you do not belong to the world
because I have chosen you out of the world,
and therefore the world hates you.
20 “Remember the word that I said to you:
‘a servant is not greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me,
they will persecute you.
If they kept my word,
they will keep yours as well.
21 But they will do all these things to you
on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.
22 “If I had not come
and spoken to them,
they would not be guilty of sin,
but now they have no excuse for their sin.
23 Whoever hates me
hates my Father also.
24 If I had not done works among them
that no one else had ever done,
they would not be guilty of sin.
But now they have seen and hated
both me and my Father.
25 All this was to fulfill the word
that is inscribed in their Law:
‘They hated me without cause.’
26 “When the Advocate comes
whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father,
he will testify on my behalf.
27 And you also are my witnesses
because you have been with me from the beginning.
- John 15:1 To the Lord’s testament (farewell discourse) were added new instructions, as though to complete it. No doubt people did not want to lose other words of the Master, often meditated on, to explain the condition of the Christian community.
It is the life of the community on which these chapters throw light. In this group of texts, chs. 13 to 17, none of our usual words are pronounced; People of God, Body of Christ, Church, congregation. The words preferred are: to abide in, to love, to testify. In ch. 16, an image is used that suggests this mystery: the image of the vine and the branches. In these texts, love is above all a characteristic of the community itself. It is the Spirit who gives these groups the strength to exist as people of love and as witnesses of Christ.
- John 15:1 Every reader of the Bible knows that the image of the vine suggests not only the union but also the tragic relationship between God and Israel. The Prophets rebuked the people of the Old Testament for not producing the fruit God expected of them, for being a spouse often unfaithful to her calling to bear witness to God among the nations (see Isa 5:1-7; Jer 2:21; Ezek 19:10-14; Hos 10:1). Jesus is the new Israel, the only vine that the Father has planted. This means that the radical, constitutive reality of the Church is her inclusion in Christ through Baptism, grace, and close attachment, and that any fruitfulness the disciple may have depends on this union with Christ.
- John 15:12 There are many reasons for people to regroup: affinity, interest, defense. But the Christian community has only one reason: Christ and his choice of us. It also has only one way of life: to love like Christ, who went so far as to give his life. To have Christ’s love is a gift. Then prayer is not a delusion; then the Christian community’s mission can bear fruit. The fruit has already been given: God’s love for us. In Christianity all is a gift.
- John 15:18 The trial of Jesus, which the fourth Gospel unveils all through its pages, will not cease until the Father, to whom he is going, will have rendered justice to him in glorifying him. This drama, which people sometimes would like to conceal through reassuring words and sentiments, will not cease until the end of time. Persecution awaits Jesus, not because of some fatal error but because Christianity is different from what we want and claim it to be.
The early Christians were excluded from the synagogue; hatred and violence were stirred up against them under the guise of religion. Blindness and stubbornness: this is the world in the Johannine sense, the world of the persecutors. The Spirit is the strength and the light that assists the persecuted to hold fast in this affront, which no doubt also comes to pass in the heart of every believer.