"Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit." (John 15:5)
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus emphasize the need to stay connected with him. For us to be fruitful in life we have to abide in him as he abides in us. And apart from him we can do nothing. The American-Vietnam soldiers coined a word, “Jesus nut” also known as the “Jesus pin.” The main purpose of the nut is to hold the (metallic fans) main rotor to the mast of some helicopters. The origin of the idea was that, if the “Jesus nut” was to fail in flight, the chopper would detach from the rotors and the only thing left for the crew to do would be, to pray to Jesus before the helicopter crashed. Today’s gospel explains why Jesus must be the pivotal point in our lives, through the parable of the vine and the branches.
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, testifies to the abundance of spiritual fruits yielded by the apostles because of their close bond with the risen Lord. The reading tells us how the Lord pruned the former Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, the fanatic who had persecuted the Church, to produce a fruit-bearing branch called Paul, the zealous Apostle to the Gentiles, entirely dedicated to the proclamation of the gospel.
In today’s second reading, John, in his first letter to the Church, explains that only if we remain united to Christ by putting our faith in him and drawing our spiritual strength from him, we will be able to obey God’s commandments, especially the commandment of love.
In the gospel, taken from the Last Supper discourse, Jesus uses the image of the vine and branches to help his disciples understand the closeness of their relationship with him and the necessity of maintaining it. They are not simply rabbi and disciples. Their lives are mutually dependent - as close as a vine and its branches. In fact, in using this image, Jesus is explaining to them and to us what our relationship with him should be like.
The vine is part and parcel of Jewish imagery and the very symbol of Israel, serving as an emblem on the coins of the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine upon the front of the Holy Place. Since Israel had become a degenerate vine producing wild and bitter grapes, Jesus makes the unique claim that he is the true vine and his disciples are the living and fruit-producing branches. He clarifies his statement, explaining that his heavenly Father is the vine-grower (v. 1), he (Christ) is the vine(v. 5), his disciples are branches (v. 5) and those who do not abide in him are useless branches, suitable only to be cut away and thrown into the fire (v. 6). To be fruitful, one must be joined to the true vine, Christ.
Even a well-pruned branch cannot bear grapes unless it abides in the vine. Jesus reminds us that apart from him we can do nothing, unless we abide in him just as he abides in us. We abide in Christ by drawing near to God and by experiencing His being near to us. This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is maintained by the spiritual helps common to all the faithful, chiefly by active participation in the Liturgy. Those of us who do not abide in Jesus will wither and be thrown away. Fruit-bearing in Christian life is not just of our own making. It is the sign that Christ is working in us and through us.
Each one of us needs to be pruned on our journey. Cutting out of our lives everything that is contrary to the spirit of Jesus and daily renewing our commitment to Christian ideals is the first type of self-imposed pruning expected of us. Jesus prunes, purifies and strengthens us by allowing us to face pain and suffering, contradictions and difficulties with courage of our Christian convictions. If we stay connected to him during our days, he will prune us as well. Pruning in never an enjoyable process because it requires cutting-away, but it will always be fruitful in the long run.
“Heavenly Father, make my heart one with you and your Son, so that I may bear fruit that brings you glory and honour.”