Vines and branches
After the washing of the feet, after the farewell discourses, after Judas had departed, after the New Commandment, for the last time Jesus reveals who he is; for the last time he uses the formula “I am”. He has already used it many times. He said, “I am the bread of life”, “the light of the world”, “the door”, “the good shepherd”, the way” (Jn 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11; 14:6). He now adds “I am the true vine” (Jn 15:1).
The Prophet Hosiah had compared Israel to a luxuriant vine that produced fruit in abundance (cf. Hos 10:1); the Prophet Isaiah had sung of God’s love for this vine, a vine which he himself had cultivated, tended, freed from stones, hoed, pruned, but in exchange what fruit did he find on it? None! The vine grower had expected grapes, the vine did not respond to the care he had given it, it bore bitter “wild grapes” (cf. Is 5:1-5). The vine bore no fruit. Jesus declares: “I am the true vine”, that is, life that has not run wild but that yields fruit in abundance. He is the vine loved and cared for by the Father, faithful Israel which responds to God’s gifts.
Jesus is the vine. Those who believe in him are the branches. The Father lavishes every care on the vine and on its branches. For the vine to bear fruit it is necessary to cut away the barren, useless branches and to prune the others. And the Father does this working first of all through his Word which “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). The word of God prunes us, it works on us.
Jesus let himself be pruned by the word listened to, prayed and lived, he let himself be pruned by men and women, by events, to the point that he lost his life out of love and bore the Resurrection as fruit, the salvation of all humankind. How many things they said of him! They accused him of being possessed by the devil, of violating the Law, of blaspheming against God; his disciples, those who were close to him and shared his life, often failed to comprehend him, they misunderstood his words, seeking the first places; one of them betrayed him, the others fled.
It is said that the vine weeps when it is pruned: the branches cut away cause it to suffer, but if we live this in faith and in abandonment to the Lord we see not only the branches cut off but also the fruit, a fruit which is sometimes hidden and sometimes visible. At times it happens to us that when we pray we feel profound peace within us; it sometimes happens that in suffering we feel that we are not alone, we perceive that the Lord sustains our will to love. And then, little by little, the Lord’s wishes become our own, our request to bear fruit, that is, to live a life following Jesus, bearing fruits of peace, patience and charity is heard, and we begin to become disciples.
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn 8:31), Jesus said. To bear fruit it is necessary to abide, that is, to adhere faithfully to the Lord, to his word. To abide, to remain, to persevere: these are images alien to our world in which things are done for a moment, for an instant, as long as pleasure lasts, until there is something new, until we gain from them a certain success. In the parable of the sower, in order to indicate those who lose heart at the first difficulty that they encounter, they are called próskairoi, in other words “those who live for a while” (cf. Mk 4:17). At this moment I want to do this thing, at another moment I no longer like it; the rule of my life is instant, momentary pleasure. Instead Christians abide in the Lord, whatever he does, thinks or says, by day and by night they are with their Lord, because they know that life without him has no meaning. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Let us not be Christians by the hour or by the moment, accepting a service only as long as we like it or have the approval of others! Let us live in Christ, doing all things with Christ, for Christ and in Christ.
St. Peter’s Square
Nov. 22, 2019
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