Today’s Gospel, the vine and the branches, reminds us of some powerful truths. For one, and this is a theme I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now: it’s not enough for Jesus that we follow him from behind, from a distance. He wants us to be a part of him. A branch is connected to the vine; it is a part of it, an extension of it. So it is with us.
Another truth behind this image is that we are utterly dependent upon Jesus for everything. For our very lives! But I’m thinking of three things in particular that we all want (GFS): Growth, Fruits, and Strength.
Growth. We all want to grow. That is real. Most teachers–well, the good ones–they want to become better. Good husbands and wives try to become better spouses. I try to become a better priest; one way is by reading a book on priesthood every year. We all have a desire to grow, to become better. This is only possible if we remain attached to the vine! The vine is the source of all life; we cannot grow without the vine just a a branch off of the vine dies in no time. Look at our first reading: it tells how the early church kept growing and growing. Because it was so attached to the vine. So it is with our parish, and the ministries in our parish: the more we are connected deeply to the vine, the more we grow.
Fruits. We all want to produce fruit. It’s part of our nature. We want to be useful. Often folks in nursing homes talk about how hard it is to be there because they’ve spent their whole lives working and doing things, and now they can’t. We want to produce fruit. The greatest fruit, St JOhn says in our second reading, is love. But folks–we cannot produce anything when we’re not attached to the vine, and Jesus is the vine. It’s the same as with a branch on the ground; it wilts and dies and produces nothing. We better stay on the vine. We’re put onto the vine in baptism; if we are faithful, we stay there forever and produce much fruit,.
Strength. We all get to points in our lives where it’s just hard, things don’t work out, we’re in over our heads. That’s life. It would get us down if we were to forget that we’re attached to something bigger than ourselves, attached to the vine, the origin of all strength and grace. We’re on that vine! When we run out of juice in our own branch, our own soul, we draw some more juice out of the vine….and it’s all good.
Friends: how deep is your connection to the vine!? That is our question. Let’s make it as strong as possible. Prayer, sacraments, service, love–there’s thousands of ways to deepen our connection, that we might always grow, produce fruit, and have strength from on high