“Christ calls on us to nurture this relationship and reciprocate his unbounded love.”
“I am the vine and you are the branches. As long as you remain in me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not remain in me is thrown away as they do with branches and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned,” says Jesus to his disciples in the gospel on the Fifth Sunday of Easter.
The image of the vine used by Jesus was a rich one for the Jews since the land of Israel was covered with numerous vineyards. Jesus calling himself the true vine is a clear message that no one can claim spiritual inheritance except when one becomes united with Jesus Christ where one is truly engrafted into the true “vineyard of the Lord”. Jesus says there can be no fruit in our lives apart from him. The fruit he speaks of here is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s gospel tells us of the role that Jesus plays in our lives – we owe everything to him, including life itself. He is the vine and we are its branches. Whoever separates himself from Jesus, the vine withers and dies. Hence, the consequence of not abiding in Jesus and living separately from him is death, symbolically and literally. The scripture says “Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.” To be fruitful, Christ is not only calling us to be with him, but to remain in Him. A person rooted in Christ leads a blissful life, a life of inner peace in the midst of crosses. Conversely, one who is distant from Him is easily overcome by despair and often tortured by guilt and inner turmoil. One is inclined to righteousness and goodness while the other is vulnerable to all sorts of evil thoughts and desires. Much like the vinedresser in a vineyard who takes good care of his plantation in order to get a good harvest, it is essential that we cultivate a good relationship with the Lord by living a sacramental life and doing charitable works.
In one of his reflections delivered a few years back, Pope Francis explained to his audience the meaning of this scripture passage. He said: Jesus is the vine, he stressed, “and through Him – like the sap in the tree – the very love of God, the Holy Spirit passes to the branches. Look: we are the branches, and through this parable, Jesus wants us to make us understand the importance of remaining united to him. The branches are not self-sufficient but depend totally on the vine, in which is found the source of their life. So it is with us Christians. Grafted by Baptism in Christ, we have freely received from Him the gift of new life; and thanks to the Church we are able to remain in vital communion with Christ. We must remain faithful to [our] Baptism, and grow in intimacy with the Lord through prayer, listening and docility to His Word, participation in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation”
He continued: If one is intimately united to Jesus, “he enjoys the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are – as Saint Paul tells us – are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22); and consequently does so much good for the neighbour and the society, like a true Christian. In fact, one is recognized as a true Christian by this attitude, as a tree is recognized by its fruit. The fruits of this profound union with Christ are wonderful: our whole person is transformed by the grace of the Spirit: [our] soul, understanding, will, affections, and even [our] body because we are united body and soul. We receive a new way of being, the life of Christ becomes our own: we are able to think like Him, to act like Him, to see the world and the things in it with the eyes of Jesus. And so we are able to love our brothers, beginning with the poorest and those who suffer the most, with His heart, and so bear fruits of goodness, of charity, and of peace in the world.”
If we wonder how to attain peace, joy, and contentment in this troubled pandemic-stricken world, this scriptural passage is the answer. We look for answers in so many places but feel frustrated when we do not find what we are looking for. Again, seek God and things fall into the right places. Christ calls on us to nurture this relationship and reciprocate his unbounded love for without him all our efforts are in vain. As the Good Book says, if the Lord does not build the house in vain do the builders toil. Life can be very challenging; it is buffeted by so many storms, but unless we build our foundation in Christ the house that we build will be destroyed even by slightest wind.
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