Liturgy of the Sunday

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Fifth Sunday of Easter
Memorial of Saint Athanasius (+373), Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. Today the Orthodox Churches celebrate Easter.

First Reading

Acts 9,26-31

When he got to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles, and explained how the Lord had appeared to him and spoken to him on his journey, and how he had preached fearlessly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Saul now started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord. But after he had spoken to the Hellenists and argued with them, they became determined to kill him. When the brothers got to know of this, they took him to Caesarea and sent him off from there to Tarsus. The churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were now left in peace, building themselves up and living in the fear of the Lord; encouraged by the Holy Spirit, they continued to grow.


Psalm 21


Jesus, man of pain, you truly know suffering.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
You are far from my plea
and the cry of my distress

O my God, I call by day and you give no reply;
I call by night and I find no peace.

Yet you, O God, are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.

In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you set them free.

When they cried to you, they escaped.
In you they trusted and never in vain.

But I am a worm and no man,
the butt of men, laughing-stock of the people.

All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.

'He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let them release him if this is his friend'.

Yes, it was you who took me from the womb,
entrusted me to my mother's breast,

To you I was committed from my birth,
from my mother's womb you have been my God.

Do not leave me alone in my distress;
come close,
there is none else to help.

Many bulls have surrounded me,
fierce bulls of Bashan close me in.

Against me they open wide their jaws,
like lions, rending and roaring.

Like water I am poured out,
disjointed are all my bones.

My heart has become like wax,
it is melted within my breast.

Parched as burnt clay is my throat,
my tongue cleaves to my jaws
and lay me in the dust of death.

Many dogs surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.

They tear holes in my hands and my feet
I can count every one of my bones.

These people stare at me and gloat;
they divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.

O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!

Rescue my soul from the sword,
my life from the grip of these dogs.

Save my life from the jaws of these lions,
my poor soul from the horns of these oxen.

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.

'You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel's sons.

For he has never despised
nor scorned the poverty of the poor.

From him he has not hidden his face,
but he heard the poor man when he cried'.

You are my praise in the great assembly.
My vows I will pay before those who fear him.

The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him.
May their hearts live for ever and ever!

All the earth shall remember
and return to the Lord,

all families of the nations
worship before him

For the kingdom is the Lord's;
he is ruler of the nations.

They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust.

And my soul shall live for him,
my children serve him.

They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
declare his faithfulness.

to peoples yet unborn '
These things the Lord has done'.

Second Reading

1 John 3,18-24

Children, our love must be not just words or mere talk, but something active and genuine. This will be the proof that we belong to the truth, and it will convince us in his presence, even if our own feelings condemn us, that God is greater than our feelings and knows all things. My dear friends, if our own feelings do not condemn us, we can be fearless before God, and whatever we ask we shall receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what is acceptable to him. His commandment is this, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we should love one another as he commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments remains in God, and God in him. And this is the proof that he remains in us: the Spirit that he has given us.

Reading of the Gospel

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

John 15,1-8

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are clean already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch -- and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and are burnt. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for whatever you please and you will get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit and be my disciples.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia


The Word of God underlines the need of "abiding" in Jesus, a theme particularly dear to John. In his first letter, he writes: "All who obey his commandments abide in God, and God abides in them." And the words "abide" and "remain" are the heart of the parable of the vine and the branches. Isaiah, in the "Song of the vineyard", describes God's disappointment in Israel, his vineyard that he had cared for, sowed, dug, and defended, but from which he had but bitter fruit. However, in Jesus' words there is a remarkable change. The vine is not Israel anymore but he himself: "I am the true vine." No one had said it before. In order to understand these words fully we need to put them in the context of the last supper when Jesus said them. Jesus identifies himself with the vine, specifying that he is the "true" vine, obviously to distinguish himself from the "false" one. And he adds, "I am the vine, you are the branches." The disciples are linked to the Master and they are a vital part of the vine. There is not a vine without branches and vice versa. It is a bond that goes far beyond our psychological highs and lows, our good and bad conditions.
The Gospel continues: "Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit." Yes, right those who bear fruit know the time of pruning. There is no stage in life that does not require change and corrections, that is, pruning. These cuts, at times even very painful, purify our lives and make the sap of the Lord's love run more freshly.
Jesus repeats six times: "Abide in me." It is the condition to bear fruit, not to dry up and to be therefore cut and burnt. It is the way that Mary, his mother, took, she who "Kept all these things and meditated on them in her heart." It is the way that Mary, Lazarus' sister, chose, she who remained at Jesus' feet and listened to him. It is the way indicated by each disciple. In the byzantine tradition, there is a splendid icon that reproduces visually this Gospel parable. At the centre of the icon there is the trunk of the vine on which Jesus is seated with the open Scripture. From the trunk spring twelve branches, on each of which is seated an apostle with scriptures open in their hands. It is the image of the new vineyard, the image of the new community that starts in Jesus, the true vine. The open book that is in Jesus' hands is the same the apostles have: it is the true sap that allows us to love not in words and tongue, but with deeds and in truth.