2021 5th Sunday of Easter (B)
We are like vines Jesus says, more particularly vine branches; the part that produces the fruit. Vines are strange plants; half the year they look dead, as if nothing will ever grow on them, and half the year they are full of lush green leaves and fruit. Yesterday I walked to Gloucester Road and on the way I passed this marvellous vine. It was in someone’s front garden attached to the railings above the wall. Right now it looks as dead as dead could be. There’s not a single leaf on it, and certainly no fruit. And yet I know that when I pass by in about a month’s time it will be covered in the greenest of green leaves.
I don’t know what you think about being compared to a vine? And yet the image is good and true. It is saying that we are born to bear fruit. It’s saying that we will go through periods in our lives when nothing is happening, or at least, nothing appears to be happening. We are like the vine in winter. But there are times in our lives when we come alive in our faith; when a special prayer Is answered, or something special and unexpected happens or you just simply feel good for no obvious reason. This is like the vine in summer. But to get to the summer the vine must pass through the winter.
Notice what Jesus says, “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.” Now when you prune a plant you cut it back. Those who don’t understand these things, seeing a pruned plant, might say “you’ve killed it. Nothing will grow on it.” And yet they are wrong. The pruning is necessary for future growth. And the same is true for us; God prunes us: He prepares us for growth in faith, so that we can bear fruit. This is not pleasant. No one likes to suffer but God uses our suffering to help us to grow in love. I think a lot of people have grown in faith during this pandemic, precisely because they have suffered. We have all experienced isolation, loneliness, anxiety and boredom; all this is suffering. But God can and does use this for our own good. In this time of suffering many more people turn to God, they pray more. And in the end, when we get through this pandemic, we shall be better and stronger in faith.
We are the branches of the vine. We produce fruit just by being part of the vine. And so we who are followers of Christ, will produce fruit simply because we are his followers. We don’t have to do much; just believe much. But it is God who produces the fruit in us. Wine is made from the fruit of the vine. You know what they say about wine: it gets better with age. So you too get better with age if you continue to believe and put your trust in God.