I am the vine, you are the branches.
This is one of those great “I AM” statements Jesus makes in the Gospel of John. Christians find lots of comfort in this image. The idea of this intimate connection with God reminds us that God wants to be intimately connected with us – like the vine and the branch – an integral part of the plant. So it is that God wants to be completely connected with us, and we with Him. Furthermore, God wants to bear fruit through us. Not only does God want to be connected to us, but God wants to work through us.
Down through the ages Jesus has spoken his good news through the Church. We have lots of stories of the saints who have done this in and through Jesus. Saints who were so connected with Jesus that they changed their world. Remember the stories about St. Francis of Asisi? St. Elizabeth Ann Seton? St. Francis Xavier? St. Theresa of Calcutta? Who is your favorite saint? These were some of the people who bore fruit in their lives because they believed in Jesus, loved one another, and followed the commands of Jesus.
Jesus is calling us, you and me, to bear fruit. He is the vine and we are the branches.
Jesus also gives us a warning in this gospel passage. Just as the branch can’t bear fruit if it isn’t connected to the vine, neither can we bear fruit if we aren’t connected to Jesus. In fact, Jesus says these words of warning: “anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people with gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” And this is so true. God is the source of all being, and whether we believe or not, our life flows from the true source of life – God. We who are Christians have the great privilege of knowing this truth. We know the one who is truth – Jesus himself. It is an amazing thing to give witness to our life in Jesus by bearing the fruit of the gospel.
So. How do we stay connected to Jesus like the branch is connected to the vine. How do we bear the fruit that Jesus wants us to bear. Scripture shows us a couple of things we can do. Let’s turn to 1 John 3:18-24 to understand this better.
1st John says this: “God’s commandment is this; we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Believe means that we say something is true so that it affects our lives. For example, those who believe that taking a daily shower is important for personal hygiene and social acceptance, will shower daily. Those who don’t believe in a daily shower won’t take a daily shower. And probably won’t be socially popular. But what about the person who says that a daily shower is important but never takes a shower anyway? Does that person really believe? Obviously - “no.” Just so, if we profess that Jesus is Lord, then he must become our own Lord and Savior. The evidence will be seen in our lives if we really believe.
Remain in him, believe, and bear fruit.
1st John says that “we should love one another just as he commanded us.”
Love is evidence of our belief in Jesus. However, we’re not talking about warm fuzzy emotions. Instead, we speak of love as a decision, an act of the will. This is the kind of love that demands patience, kindness, an even temper, a willingness to put others first. This is the kind of love that will impel us to lay our lives down for others. This is the kind of love that Jesus had - when he laid down his life even for those who rejected him, condemned him, and crucified him. That’s not “warm-fuzzy” That’s self sacrificial. Jesus said we should love one another.
Remain in him, love, and bear fruit.
1st John says that “those who keep His commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.”
Now, in the gospels, we find many of the commands of Jesus. Proactive commands like, repent, believe, convert, pray, do not be afraid, love, and so forth. There are also restrictive commands like, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, don’t lie, and so forth. In order to follow the commands of Jesus we need to study them and understand them. So listen to scripture at Mass. Pick up some of those good CD’s and Books we have available in the back of Church. Join one of our bible study groups or faith sharing groups. Crack open those bibles at home and read, study, and understand. And having studied these things, meditated upon these things – put the gospel into action. Live the words of Jesus in practical ways, every day.
Remain in him, keep his commandments, and bear fruit.
Finally, if we want to really be able to believe, love, and follow his commandments, then the key to all that is prayer. Prayer inspires us to believe in Jesus. Prayer teaches us to love like Jesus. Prayer gives us desire to follow the commandments Jesus has given us. Our lives will bear much good fruit, and we will truly and forever become his disciples.
For Jesus said: “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.”