Gospel Jn 15:1-8
“For cut off from me, you can do nothing.”
Sometimes the sayings of Jesus are (understandably) a bit overdone. We’ve heard them so often, perhaps in the unfortunate circumstance of some kind of trite Hallmark card type scenario that they lose their meaning.
Before us in today’s Gospel we have the quaint image of the vine and the branches, an image with which we here in Western Australia are not at all unfamiliar with, blessed as we are with world-class wine regions at our doorstep.
What is initially a fairly plain and simple image, conveying an equally simple message, can carry deeper significance upon reflection.
Jesus invites his followers to ‘remain in him’ to remain connected to and rooted in him. It makes sense when we speak of the botanical reality of vines and the branches which provide them sustenance, but such language is surely odd if Jesus is merely a man.
In the midst of our busy lives we can often push our prayer off to the side. Perhaps it punctuates our day or our week, but beyond that, it is not something that continues to inform our existence. What Jesus is calling us to is something more fundamental – a life lived from a reality grounded in him. This is something that affects not only a world-view, but our entire logic of being.
The great temptation of our age is to think that ‘I’ need to sort things out myself, that ‘I’ can be totally independent and self-sustaining. Jesus’ words ring out here, we are fundamentally, or constitutively relational. Not only that, but cut off from the source of life and love we can do nothing. As the Spanish priest and theologian writes ‘nothing can live off nothingness. Nobody can stand, have a constructive relationship with reality, without something that makes life worth living, without a hypothesis of meaning. (Disarming Beauty, p. 50). It is that ongoing encounter with Jesus that gives life meaning. He offers himself to us in all humility, for us to engage with and to verify. Is life with him better, more real?
Apart from him, can I experience joy?
Point to Ponder
The grace contained in the Sacraments of Easter is an enormous potential for the renewal of our personal existence, of family life, of social relations. However everything passes through the human heart: if I let myself be touched by the grace of the Risen Christ, if I let him change me in that aspect of mine which is not good, which can hurt me and others, I allow the victory of Christ to be affirmed in my life, to broaden its beneficial action. This is the power of grace! Without grace we can do nothing. Without grace we can do nothing! And with the grace of Baptism and of Eucharistic Communion I can become an instrument of God’s mercy, of that beautiful mercy of God. To express in life the sacrament we have received: dear brothers and sisters, this is our daily duty, but I would also say our daily joy! The joy of feeling we are instruments of Christ’s grace, like branches of the vine that is Christ himself, brought to life by the sap of his Spirit! – Pope Francis, Regina Ceali Address, 1 April 2013