Gospel Jn 15:1-8
“For cut off from me, you can do nothing.”
Last week Jesus used the image of the Good Shepherd to teach his followers about himself. In today’s Gospel we find him using a very different image.
Living here in this Port City of Fremantle one occasionally has the good fortune to travel down to the renowned winemaking regions of the south-west of this fair state. In the next few months we’ll be coming up to that time of the year when winemakers are out in force pruning back their vines, so this imagery is not completely unfamiliar to us.
If you happen to be down there after the pruning has happened you may find yourself shocked at the severity to which the vines are pruned. The once fruitful vines seem to be nothing but dead stumps! And yet, from these vines new life does come forth and much more than if they’d not been pruned.
Jesus could not be clearer in his imagery here, just as a branch will wither as it is cut off from the life giving sap of the vine, so too will we wither if we are cut off from him, as the source of life and love. We must abide in him.
Pope Benedict XVI, in commenting on this reading wrote that ‘[i]t is important that we “abide” in Christ, in the vine. The evangelist uses the word “abide” a dozen times in this brief passage. This “abiding in Christ” characterizes the whole of the parable. In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!” (cf. Lk 24:29), then the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. When drought and death loom over the branches, then future, life and joy are to be found in Christ.’
To abide in Christ is to abide in the Church, which is his Body here on earth.
Have I cut myself of from the life-giving vine which is Christ and his Church?
Am I willing to be grafted anew onto the living vine of Christ?