Wednesday, May 1, 2024

John 15:1-8 The Vine and the Branches

We all struggle sometimes to understand what our relationship with God should look like. Today, Jesus gives us a powerful image that clearly shows what our relationship with Him should be. Jesus said our relationship with Him should be as close as the grapevine is to its branches.  

Think about that … 

He does not describe our faith life as an occasional thing, just one aspect of our lives. He says that our religion, our faith, is what gives us life. He compares us to branches attached to him, the lifegiving vine. Religion isn't meant to be a mere part of our lives; it's meant to be everything; afterall branches wither and die if they are away from the vine.                                                                                                        

Jesus says today we will die … spiritually … if we aren't connected to Him.  That's big.  

Our belief is not in some distant God, some abstract God in the heavens. It's just the opposite. Jesus says we are called to be connected to our God intimately. A connection that is life giving a connection whose purpose is to produce fruit. In this vine-to-branch relationship described in this Gospel reading,  God wants fruit to result from our relationship with him! Fruit is mentioned six times in our text and eight times in this chapter.                                                                                                              

Jesus says:   "This glorifies My Father that you bear much fruit ."  We can only bear fruit by being attached to the vine. So, what does being attached to the vine look like? The vine needs to be cultivated, fertilized, and watered. Then it is pruned to produce fruit.   We nurture our relationship with the vine by reading scripture, meditating, praying, coming to Mass, and conversing with other believers. Only after cultivating our faith and deepening our relationship with Christ can we bear fruit.

We produce fruit by loving others generously and by sharing our life-giving faith. That's the fruit. The fruit we are called to produce comes from us spreading the love we know from our connection to Christ to others everywhere we go. This means loving our neighbor and taking care of our neighbor's needs. It means spreading love everywhere … everywhere. Is that how someone would describe you: "spreading love everywhere you go." Wouldn't that be nice!  

I heard a true story that might help explain what I'm trying to say. A few years back, a college professor had his sociology class go into the Baltimore slums to get case histories of about 200 boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy's future. In every case, the students wrote: "He doesn't have a chance." Twenty-five years later, another sociology professor at the same university came across the earlier study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to these boys. Except for 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 men had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors, and businesspeople. The astounded professor decided to pursue the matter further. Fortunately, all the men were in the area, and he could ask each one: "How do you account for your success?" In each case, the reply came with a feeling:  "There was this teacher."

The teacher was still alive, so the professor sought her out and asked the old but alert lady what magic formula she had used. Her eyes sparkled, and her lips broke into a gentle smile, "It's really very simple." she said, "I loved those boys."

We make this thing we call religion far more complicated than necessary; Jesus Christ tells us what religion is all about. He tells us today that He nurtures us, gives us life, and asks that we love others as He loves. That's it. Our religion is all about being loved and loving others.  

That teacher understood the power of God's love, which allowed her to love those boys into what they became. The fruit we are called to produce comes from loving others with the same kind of love we have received from God—a life-giving love.  

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