Acts 9:26-31; Ps 22:26-28, 30-32; I John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
The Easter message of life in the risen Jesus continues in today’s gospel in another famous "I am" statement, the vine and the branches. Apart from Jesus, there can be no Spirit-life for his disciples. The second reading, from St. John’s first letter, reminds us that it is this same Holy Spirit that enables us to recognize Jesus as God’s Son and to keep his commandments.
The vine and branches extended metaphor has four allegorical components:
1) The vine grower (the Father)
2) The vine (Jesus)
3) The branches (the disciples)
4) The fruit (blessing others).
Unlike the shepherd and sheep image of last week, this connection to Jesus is more intimate and personal. The idea of remaining together in friendship produces loving fruit to all around.
In Revelation 22:1-2, there is a river of water that flows from beneath the throne of our Father and Jesus. It goes out to all the streets in heaven. This river of God’s love comes to earth in all the sacraments and the prayer life of each disciple of Jesus. Along the stream are fruit trees that produce fruit 12 times a year, once each month, and their leaves are used for the healing of the nations.
In Jesus there is divine power to bear blessings for others. In the spring the gardener cuts the branches back so the grape vines will produce a richer harvest. God uses various means – trials, death, loss of a job – to trim our pride and self-will, which can be opposed to God’s will. This pruning makes us more like Christ. This is often painful until the Holy Spirit helps us see God’s purpose in our purification. If we continue to abide in Jesus and follow him with our reception of the sacraments and a daily prayer life, we will bear God’s fruit once each month and our leaves help make the world a better place to live.
If we do not remain as disciples and students of Jesus, following his direction and receiving his divine life flowing through our branches, we are cut off. We will produce bitter grapes and bad fruit, which will greatly harm others. Jesus says those branches will be cut off and thrown into the fire to be burnt. It is in Christ that we receive more of his divine life each day that causes the abundance in our lives. If we see God’s greater plan we shall produce much fruit and the world will be a better place because we live in Christ.
It is also helpful in addition to our daily prayer life and Mass each weekend to belong to some kind of a study or support group where we become a little family helping and encouraging each other along our way to heaven. "If we make our home in God’s Word, especially the New Testament, we will indeed be his disciples (students), we will learn his Truth, and that truth will set us free." (John 8:31-32 NJB)
Then St. Paul tells us, "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Cor 2:9 NAB) Let us stay connected to Jesus so we shall bear the fruit he wants to come through us. What kind of fruit tree are you?
As we approach Pentecost, four texts in St. John at daily Mass that teach us about the major work of God, the Holy Spirit. They are spread out over the next two weeks so if we are not carefully looking for them we will miss then. One additional text, the first one, was skipped over last Saturday, Jn 14:16-17. May the Holy Spirit pierce our mind and heart so that, with his gifts of wisdom and understanding, we can see his work in and around us more clearly and bear more fruit for his kingdom.
Have a fruitful week blessing others,
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2015 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)