5th Week of Easter (b) 2018
When Jesus speaks of vines he knows what he is talking about, because he grew up surrounded by vinyards. As a child, at harvest time, he would have trod grapes with the other children. The vine was then something familiar to him.
He would have seen the vine in winter time; looking dead, cut back to its stump, looking like it would never produce any more grapes. And yet come the summer it was transformed. The branches began to grow in the spring. Lovely green leaves form, then slowly but surely the grapes appear. By the end of the summer the grapes are full and ripe and ready for harvesting. It is amazing how much fruit a vine can produce, especially when you remember how barren it looked in the autumn and winter.
Jesus uses the vine as an anology; he identifies with the vine, when he says: “I am the vine” and then adds, “you are the branches.” You cannot have a vine without branches and equally you cannot have branches without a vine. The same sap running through the vine runs through the branches. All the branches have to do is to remain part of the vine. Of course, the vine dresser will have his role to play; he will prune the vine, cut it back in winter, in order to make it more fruitful. Jesus tells us, ‘I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.’ We are on this earth to produce fruit; we are not here just to exist, but are here for a purpose; we have a role to fulfill.
The analogy of wine and of grapes is, as I said, one that Christ would have been familiar with from his childhood. The vital link between the vine and branches is an analogy of our relationship with him. The same sap, the same life, that seeps through Christ seeps through us. It’s what we call grace. If you cut us, in a sense, it’s his life blood than runs out. The goodness that is in him pours through our veins. As long as we hang on to him we shall produce good and abundant fruit. Chritians are called to greatness, not to mediocrity. But it is all his work.
It is so important to remember this last point. The better we are, the more fruit we produce, the more we need to remind ourselves that it is all his work. If you live a good life people will sometimes say nice things to you: what a wonderful person you are; how kind you are; what a good friend you are. The good Christian will then remember this analogy of the vine and the branches; in other words, what ever good I do, whatever act of kindness I perform, whatever act of faith I make, it is because Christ has done this in me. And therefore I don’t take the credit, but rather I point to him.
All of us are here on earth to do good. We were created to make this world a better place. And it is not such a daunting task as it might appear. Maybe we are not going to change the world radically, but we can do our little bit. All of us can achieve so much if we just allow Christ to work in us and through us, to let him achieve in us whatever good he wants us to do.
‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty.’