“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.” John 15:5
In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus once again explains our relationship to Him. Last week we heard about the Good shepherd and his sheep. This week the relationship is presented as vine and branches. This is a vivid image of the intimate relationship between Jesus and his followers, and is comforting and reassuring. Jesus will always be there, giving us support and nourishment. Like last weeks Gospel reading, Jesus once again uses the words “I am”, which call to mind Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. God identified Himself to Moses as “I am who am.”
Where last week’s image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd emphasized the loving, merciful care that God has for His people, this Gospel reading focuses on the shared nature that we have with Christ. In the words of St. Augustine, “It is beyond dispute that a vine and its branches are of one and the same stock.” Jesus becomes Incarnate so that He might share our nature. “I am the vine, and you are the branches,” thus reveals Jesus’ humanity as well as His Divinity. The Word of God becomes flesh and takes on our humanity, so that we might in turn participate in the Divine Life of the Holy Trinity.
Jesus promises us that if we remain in Him, and He in us, we will bear much fruit. Jesus, the true vine, will support us and nourish us, and our lives will be fruitful.
But then there is the small matter of pruning. Jesus mentions it twice in our reading: the Father “takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does, he prunes, so that it bears more fruit.” We are pruned either way, whether we bear fruit or not! If we bear no fruit, we “will be thrown out like a branch and wither.” If we bear some fruit, we have to be cut back anyway.
The reason for all this pruning is so that we might bear fruit in abundance. But what does it mean to bear fruit? We get a clue from verse 8, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” To "glorify God" does not add anything to God but it makes manifest the glory that already belongs to God.
For John the Evangelist the ultimate manifestation of the glory/presence of God is Jesus himself, for in Jesus both divine presence and divine action are manifest. God is glorified, that is, God's presence is made manifest, when Jesus fulfills his mission. In the same way, God is glorified when Jesus' followers bear the fruit of faithful discipleship. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
St. Clare of Assisi
Fr. Vincent Nguyen
on Saturday, May 1 at 7:00AM