Jesus, in today’s gospel passage says to us, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-dresser” (or gardener). Although there is no mention specifically about the vines being grape-vines yet it is taken for granted that is what Jesus was using as a symbol for the relationship we must have with Him and with His Father.
Ancient Hebrew writing on viniculture (growing grapes to be used for winemaking) shows that the gardeners loved their vineyards. They built walls around their vines to protect them from wild animals, and they constructed watchtowers so that guards could watch for thieves. They would add art and sculpture to make their vineyards even more beautiful. They weeded and pruned the vines and looked forward to their lovely fruit.
We have few grape-vines here in our country but we have many other fruits that grow on vines. e.g. pumpkin, watermelon, cucumber, passion-fruit, barbadine and tomatoes. We can use the image of these familiar vine-growing fruits to help us see what Jesus wants to tell us in this gospel passage.
If you grow tomatoes, pull a stool, sit beside the plant, and ponder.
In verse 2, Jesus uses the phrase “in me”. He is telling us that He is speaking here to people who are in a vital, life-giving relationship to Himself. No one can be considered a branch in the Lord’s Vine unless there is a vital connection to Him. No one can bear fruit for the glory of the Lord unless they are attached to the Vine. No less than six times in these verses, Jesus uses the phrase “in me”. He is talking about a situation that is an absolute necessity for life and fruit- bearing. Without that vital connection, the “sap of life” cannot flow in and through you. Before you can have anything else, from God or with God, you must have that relationship to God. Before you can have a hope of Heaven, or forgiveness of sin, you must have a relationship with Him.
A vine has one distinct purpose: bearing fruit. But, if you will notice, the vine itself does not bear the fruit. It delegates the fruit bearing to the branches. The vine has fruit, but its fruit is on the branches! So it is with Jesus Christ. He came to this world so that we may not be lost (John 3: 16). His fruit is believers. His fruit is those branches that have been grafted onto Him by grace. His fruit is us, and He has delegated the bearing of fruit to you and me. You will notice that there is to be a progression in our fruit bearing. Verse 2 mentions “no fruit,” “fruit,” and “more fruit.” Verse 8 speaks of “much fruit.” It can be understood from this that God expects us to always be growing in the fruit-bearing process.
When we speak of “bearing fruit,” what do we mean? What will be produced in our lives when we yield? How will we know if fruit is being produced through us?
Our Catholic Church has given us much help in figuring this out. We have the Spiritual Works of Mercy, the Corporal Works of Mercy, the Beatitudes, the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit and many other helps….we have no excuses!
Sometimes too we draw back, thinking that it is hard and that we cannot do it. We think that fruit bearing is for the “super saints” and for those who “have arrived”.
For fruit to happen in your life you must “remain” or “abide” in Jesus. This is the only thing He requires of the branches — for them to rest in Him and to draw their life strength from Him. Fruit- bearing plants do not struggle to bring forth their fruit. Their branches yield themselves to the will of the vine; its life flows through them and fruit happens!
A gardener actively aids a plant to produce fruit, he removes things from the branch that would sap it vitality and strength — sucker branches, useless buds, discoloured leaves, etc. Anything that consumes life but produces no fruit must go!
So it is in the life of the believer. There are so many things in us and around us that can hamper our walk with the Lord. When we begin to be fruitful, we can rest assured that He will cleanse us through the pruning process.
So, when you are next in your garden pruning, reaping and enjoying those tomatoes think about how much God, the Gardener enjoys the “fruits” of our good works.
(Ideas for this article sourced from The Sermon Notebook; Biblical Resources for Preachers and Teachers of the Word of God and the April/May 2012 edition of Catechist) —Sr Marie Young, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office