TRLV’s former spiritual director Fr. Jun Lingad, SVD, explains the Biblical basis of the name of the Risen Lord’s Vineyard community -- after 25 long years.
In the retreat he gave on July 22, 2012 at the Layforce Auditorium, San Carlos Seminary (Guadalupe, Makati City), Fr. Jun asked us participants to situate ourselves at the Last Supper, where many things happened.
He told us to dwell on this particular passage, John 15: 5-17, which is an account of the Last Supper. Specifically, he focused on the following line as the Biblical basis of the theme of the retreat:
“Bearing much fruit which will remain” (Jn. 15:5-16).
Here’s a partial transcript of his Biblical reflections.
When you study Scripture you should bring everything you have, your intelligence, memory, imagination, senses, experience, etc. (Fr. Jun invites us to take this stance as we reflect together on the passages pertaining to the Last Supper.)
As we know, during the Last Supper, many things happened, including the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. In the Last Supper, Jesus showed his love for his own. He held the first Eucharist, the most important monument of his love. In the Last Supper, He also first instituted priesthood.
Of course, prior to the Last Supper, Jesus had to give example by washing the disciples’ feet, as though to say, “Christians should be foot-washers.” By washing the feet of His disciples, He gave them His new commandment (“Love one another as I have loved you”).
The Biblical account of the Last Supper is in the last chapters of Jn. 15, particularly chapters 13 to 17. This means that the middle of the chapter is chapter 15. This is significant, as we will see later.
We should be careful when it is Jesus who talks in a given passage. If a good teacher teaches, you notice not just what he teaches, but also how he teaches it.
Christ is the wisdom of God. What He teaches must contain wisdom. Also, how he teaches shows his wisdom. Therefore, pay attention to not just what Christ says but also how he says it.
(If we follow the Way (Christ), we get to the Truth, the Way, the Life Eternal. There’s a saying in Latin: “Doing follows being,” What you are comes out of your action.)
Reflecting on the Biblical passage using your imagination requires a bit of work. For example, when you look at the cross, it’s so unreal, washed up, and made beautiful. The real cross is different ““ there is sweating of blood, excruciating pain, agony after the scourging “Excruciating” (from “crucis,” meaning “cross”) means “pain beyond description.” Have you ever taken a long hard look at the cross? It’s the same with Christmas. Look at the tidied-up crib versus the real stable or manger. Imagine the stench and there being no place in the inn for the Holy Family, etc.
When you see the cross, you don’t just see a cross (with a bloodied man on it). It is also a symbol. The cross really means passion. What is weakness to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks is something powerful to Christians. To us Christians, death is not the last word. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and so shall we!
When Jesus said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me,” notice the priority order. It is meant to be that way: You must first empty yourself of your own thoughts and desires before you are able to accept and embrace your cross and be a disciple of God.
Denying yourself means repentance or, in Latin, “metanoia,” literally “changing (one’s) mind.”
However, changing yourself is not a one-time act. When Jesus said, “Repent and be baptized,” he meant a continuous act of repentance.
Unfortunately, the English translation was unable to capture the
nuances of the Greek verb tenses. The original Greek used “metanoeite” (meaning “continue changing your mind”) and not “matanoeisate” (meaning “change your mind once and for all.”) What it means to be a Christian, therefore, is to continue changing your mind, continue denying yourself.
Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus. Otherwise you’re not Christians.
Hindi ba’t pag binyag, sa ulo binabasa, hindi sa kamay o paa? Kasi doon magpapalit ng isipan!
But Jesus Christ knew it’s so hard to change our minds. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find that repentance or changing your mind is not the easiest thing to do.
Again, unfortunately, the English translation put it this way: ”But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.” (NAB)
The more accurate translation, however, is this: ”Instead continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (NJB)
Be committed to this! This is what commitment is about.
In the English Bible translation, it says, “Ask and you shall receive.” This is another erroneous translation, leading us to think that the moment we ask, we should receive the answer at once. Instead, it should be, “Continue to ask...”
Again, being committed to this is not the easiest thing to do. This is where being in community is a big help.
The word “church” is from the Greek ekklesia, from the root words kaleo, calling, or kle, called, and ekkle, meaning called out (to salvation).
When you’re a teacher, you teach the most important things first. You don’t bother with unimportant matters.
When a teachers teaches in parables, notice the words used and whether these word are used several times. This means the words are being stressed or emphasized and are thus important.
In Jn. 15: 1-16, God the Father’s role is emphasized, as the Vine-grower, a way of saying, “We grow in vain without God’s blessings.”
Notice the following keywords used and how many times they are mentioned:
I am 2x
True vine 4x
My father 4x
Bear fruit 6x
The world 2x
Father loves 9x
One of the most often-repeated terms is “remain.”
Remaining in the vine means going through a pruning process. In order to bear fruit, we must be pruned. As we know, the pruning process is painful.
The vine-grower knows exactly where to prune. He knows the fruit grows near the main branch. In pruning the vine, only three branches remain: those that are sure to bear fruit.
During the pruning process, we ask (in pain), “Why, Lord, why?” But the Lord answers, “And why not? I’d like you to bear fruit. Don’t you like that?”
You will be pruned by the Word of God. The pruning process is through the Word, because “the Word cuts like a two-edged sword” (Heb. 4: 12).
Kung magaling kang umibig, di ka tatamaan.
But God heals while He strikes. He gives only medicinal punishments.
In verse 4, it says that if you don’t remain, you become weak. You will not be able to fulfil your commitment.
Note, too, that you are to “bear much fruit,” not just “fruit.”
Note further that it says, “Because without me, you can do nothing” ““ He said “nothing” not “very little.” The meaning of “Christian” is, therefore, remove “Christ” and “I Am Nothing.”
These are Jesus’ own words. You don’t edit the word of Jesus.
Why is “Father loves” mentioned nine times?
Because basically our commitment is to love. And love is shown in practice: obeying His commandments.
(There is another mistranslation in the New Jerusalem Bible: “If you obey my teachings, you will be indeed my disciples” (Jn. 8:30). The original Greek has: “you are,” not “you will be.” If you obey, you are a disciple, not “will be,” as though subject to a few more conditions.)
“You” is also mentioned a lot.
“You” in ch. 13-16 refers to the disciples, and in ch. 17 to the Father.
But “you” also refers to you. God is speaking to you. You are important to God.
And God says: “You ask whatever you want and will be done for you.” If you obey God, He promises answered prayers!
If we are blessed, the love of God flows to others.
But being a disciple does not mean the absence of suffering. God didn’t spare Jesus of suffering after He prayed in agony at Gethsemane. Jesus went through the crucifixion nonetheless, saying, “Your will be done.”
But in our suffering, He will see us through (as the Father saw Jesus through resurrection).
In the Bible, God’s love is always concrete. It always comes with action. He gave His only begotten Son.
Love is always giving and forgiving, always an action, not abstraction. The Bible does not say, “God so loved the world and He smiled.”
Notice that the word “joy” is used, not “happiness.”
The word “happy” is from the root word “hap,” which means “chance,” thus the words “perhaps,” which is the synonym of “perchance,” meaning “half his chance,” and “mishap,” which means “bad chance.” This means happiness depends on chances, on circumstances. Happiness is unsure; it requires conditions.
Unlike happiness, joy is absolute, a gift of God. JOY means “Jesus,” “others,” and “you” -- in that order.
As Christians, we wear the Christian uniform called love, by being kind, having a forgiving nature, and the rest of the attributes enumerated in the Beatitudes (which is really a description of the character of Jesus).
In chapter 13, notice that Jesus has no more to give. He has given everything he has, even his mother. Earlier, He has promised the Holy Spirit. At the very end, He gave everything: he gave His life.
He didn’t have to do that!
“If you love me you will obey, you will keep my commandments.”
This lies at the very center of chapter 15, the middle chapter of the Last Supper (chapter 13-17). This is the dead center of the whole construction.
“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” This is the summary of the whole passage.
“You are my friends.” The significance of these words gathers even more weight if you consider that they were uttered by Jesus before dying.
What is a friend? In Tagalog, we say “kaibigan,” and its word is “pag-ibig,” meaning “love.” To be a friend is to be someone who is loved.
It’s always like that in other language. The Spanish “amigo,” the Italian “amicu,” and the French “amie” all came from the root word, “amor,” “amores,” the Latin for “love.” The German “freund”/”freunden” seems a different matter at first glance, but upon closer look, it’s the same. When Germans say “I love you,” they say “Ich liebe dich” -- “liebe” means love, “lieben” to love. But “lieben” came from the Old English past participle verb “freon,” meaning “to love.” The English “love” is no different from the word “friend.” The Greek for “friend” is “philos,” from the verb “philei,” to love.” Similarly, the Hebrew for friend is “ohev,” “to love” is “ahav.”
Near the moment of His death, You and I are at the very center of Jesus’s heart. “You are my friend.”
Don’t you ever forget that, come what may.
You don’t open your heart to just anyone. You only open your heart to family, to friends. And you don’t call everyone your friend.
Three times before He died, He said this. This is His last will and testament, His huling habilin!
(Notice, however, that compared to Jesus’s declaration of His love for us, sometimes we eat our words. Tulak ng bibig kabig ng dibdib.)
Who is Jesus to you? He is your Lord and Savior, yes, but more than that, what?
He is first and foremost your friend!
Jesus is so true to this through the very end. Remember what Jesus said to Judas when He was caught by the Roman soldiers: “Friend, will you betray me with a kiss?”
Finally, remember that it isn’t you who chose. From verse 16, we know it is Jesus who chose us first, and His choice is irrevocable!