5th Sunday in Easter
“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.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in your providence and love present in my life. You created me with a plan to be with you and to work with you, to grow as a living branch getting life from you the Vine. I trust you; you care for my needs and will reveal to me how you want me to bear fruit with my life. I love you and want to grow by giving myself more fully to your will. I trust you especially when you prune me. May my love glorify you.
Petition: Grant me, Lord, the grace to know your will and the love to do it for your glory.
1. The Vine Grower. My life is not simply, MY life. It belongs to the Vine Grower who gives life. God the Father gives me natural life as well as the supernatural life of grace, a share in his own life. As the Vine Grower he works in every circumstance to care for me and assure my growth and the fruitfulness of my life. This fruitfulness depends primarily on my relationship with Christ the Vine, because it is in being connected to him that I receive his life.
But I often resist his pruning, the discipline of Christian life. I prefer not to become too dependent on the Vine. Yet once I distance myself and become independent, disconnected and separated from the Vine, then the sap, the life of grace is cut off, I as a branch die and can no longer bear fruit. I may think of myself as productive in some way, there may be lots of leaves, but the real reason and value of my existence is lost, since I was created to be a branch on this Vine and to bear fruit.
There are parts of us, our vanity and self-centeredness, that need to be cut away because they draw our energy away from what is fruitful. We must let the Father prune those away. Alone, I can only wither and will be good for nothing but fueling a fire.
2. Remain in Me. Remaining in Christ does not mean adapting a passive attitude or one of mere survival. Remaining alive in him means constant growth. A failure to grow marks the beginning of death. My relationship with Christ, he in me and I in him, grows the more I give myself to him. This begins in prayer where he invites me to a deeper understanding of his ways and a stronger embracing of his will. While his love is constant, I can always grow in my awareness of the great love he has for me, and thus desire more and more to respond with love. This leads to an intimacy where I share his view of my life, where I come to desire what he desires, love what he loves, give myself heroically as he gave himself, and detest what he detests.
Faith and sincerity in prayer will change my life. And this change will be seen in how much and how well I do his will each day.
3. Glorify My Father. St. Augustine says, "Do you want to speak the praise of God? Be yourselves what you speak. If you live good lives, you are his praise" [Sermon 34]. We become the glory of God by doing his will and reproducing his life, by aiming to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. What is the fruit we are called to give God? It can only be something lasting, eternal. First is my living of God's life, growing in grace and holiness. Holiness is being united in mind, heart and action with him. Then from this life will flow the works of God: "Ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you." Jesus places the two together: "Bear much fruit and become my disciples". Do I want to do great things for God during my short life? Do I want to help Jesus save souls, bring them truth, freedom, healing and life? Only by living in grace and seeking his plan will I fulfill the mission he has committed to me and become eternally fruitful. His Kingdom in my heart and in the apostolic works of my life glorifies God.
Conversation: Lord Jesus, so many times I wander from the true and eternal vine, cutting off the flow of your life to my soul. Help me to know with certainty that without you I can do nothing, and with you I can do all things. Let me never be parted from you, either here on earth or in eternity.
1. Do my difficulties discourage me, or do I recognize that they are one of the ways the Father uses to prune me to bear more fruit?
2. What do I do in order to remain in Christ; what pulls me away from him?
3. Do I glorify God by the way I live, or am I afraid to be his witness?