May 3, 2015

Being a Branch

I find today's gospel, that of the vine and the branches from St. John's Last Supper Discourses, so beautiful and encouraging.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. (John 15:1)

Who is the Father? He is one who grows something, someone who cultivates. He plants and cultivates a vine in his creation, the Vine Jesus Christ.

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)

Branches are part of the vine, but one can still make a distinction between the vine and the branches. So it is with us who are baptized into Christ and who renew our union with him in Holy Communion. We remain at the same time the free and discrete beings we were created and members of the mystical Body of Christ.

Branches draw their growth and nourishment from the vine; they grow from the life of the vine. So it is with us in our prayer and our participation in the sacraments. While the vine is the life of the branches, on the other hand the branches are the flourishing of the vine; it is from the branches that the leaves and the fruit come. This is what we branches are called to be--the flourishing of the vine:

By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. (John 15:8)

The glory of God is our bearing of fruit, through our humanity joined to the sacred humanity of Christ. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are where the glorification of God and human flourishing intersect: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

But this is not without its challenges:

He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. (John 15:2)

If we set out on the journey of letting ourselves to be a branch of the Vine Jesus Christ, we can expect to be pruned. When God finds a soul willing to work, he puts her to work. This pruning is a letting go. A letting go of sins, attachments, and ideas, even ideas of God. The pruning can feel painful because we have become attached to material things and our ways of thinking in disordered ways. This is to say that we try to love them outside of the love of God.The pruning can seem to take away even the person we thought we were, but it has the purpose of revealing the true person that God has created and that God wills to flourish in his her humanity. Our pruning comes first of all through an attentive and prayerful listening to the Word of God, a listening that is ready to be challenged to action and to change:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. (John 15:3)

It is the Word proclaimed in the assembled Church that prunes us believers, as well as the Word pronounced by Father and breathed out by the Holy Spirit in the interior place of our prayer, that breath that conceives us in the Word, as Christians, members of the Body of Christ.

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