Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me, and I in them, bear fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)
We are still on the Easter journey. After the three day roller-coaster of emotions - from Jesus’ supper with his disciples, through trial and crucifixion, to the wonder of the women at the empty tomb - we now prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
During these fifty days, our journey is steadied and enlightened by the words of the First Letter of St John. It has a central message made clear in today’s reading: we are asked to believe in Jesus and love one another. We are then assured that we are not alone in this challenge: “We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us.”
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins echoes this in As Kingfishers Catch Fire:
“For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.”
This idea of Christ living within us is explored in today’s Gospel where Jesus likens himself to the “true vine.” He tells us: “Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty.”
The purpose of remaining in communion with Jesus, the Vine, is for us branches to draw the life and nourishment we need to become good fruit. That fruit shows itself in lives of plenty, in rich and generous sharing of love, hope, comfort, compassion, joy and forgiveness.
Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit we can hold Christ within us, not only in our thoughts, our ideas, our actions, but deep within ourselves, in our souls and in our hearts. We are helped by prayer and by reflecting on the words of scripture, maybe meditating on the images, or by spending time with the phrases that we particularly notice. Or we can sit still and simply open our hearts and listen. Jesus says: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you …”
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