“Grace is not a strange, magic substance which is subtly filtered into our souls to act as a kind of spiritual penicillin. Grace is unity, oneness within ourselves, oneness with God.” - Thomas Merton: (1915 –1968: was an American Catholic writer. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis)
Gospel Text: (JN 15:1-8)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Three thoughts jumped out at me when reading today’s gospel from Mass:
First, the words – “THE TRUE VINE”. Might we be connected to other vines in our lives -- even competing vines? Might other vines look to be TRUE? Yes. But, is there only one, true vine of which the Father is the grower? Is there only one true vine which is the most life-giving, the most nourishing, and the most dependable? Yes. Most importantly -- are we plugged into this one, true vine?
Second, “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”
We all need pruning in life. Jesus provides an example of an action by which this pruning might occur -- the reception of The Word -- the reception of His Word. Scripture challenges us, nourishes us, encourages us, and advises us. Scripture prunes us by addressing the life-sucking downfalls that might hinder us from bearing good fruit -- or any fruit at all: Temptations, greed, selfishness, anger, grudges, apathy, hatred, or the avoidance of cross-carrying at any cost, to name a few. On the other hand, Scripture prunes us by helping us to channel all that is life-giving into our lives and actions: Selfless love, sacrifice, voluntary cross-carrying, feeding others, clothing others, visiting others, comforting others, serving others, forgiving others, healing others, reaching out to the marginalized, protecting defenseless life, and even giving up our lives for others.
Lastly third, “Remain in me, as I remain in you”
Do we try to be our own vines sometime? Yes. Sadly, we can deceive our selves and think we are independent of God and our dependence upon Jesus (the true vine) will begin to slip away until we feel lifeless. And, it is then that we search -- sometimes frantically -- for the true vine again hoping that we have not been permanently cut off and thrown in the pile of withered branches ready for burning.
If we find we are not plugged into Jesus, if we find our choices for fulfillment are limited, if we find those things that we are currently plugged into life-sucking or only minimally sustaining, let us make a conscious decision to find the TRUE vine and find TRUE nourishment, TRUE fulfillment, and TRUE peace and happiness.