5th Sunday of Easter
Jn. 15: 1-8
The image of the vine and the branches is one of my favorite analogies of our relationship with Jesus. Where does the vine end and the branch begin? One flows seamlessly into the other. We are joined with Christ in a mysterious way, at some unfathomable, hidden point of union where His life flows into us as sap streams through a vine and its branches. Our origin is in Him while His origin- His root, is in the Father. Living water flows from both the Father and the Son in the gift of the Holy Spirit to us as long as we remain connected to this Vine in love.
But then there is the pruning. How painful it is for the pruner, to willfully cut off what look like perfectly good branches! The poor plant bleeds its sap and looks so pitifully naked and reduced. Yet it would be a false compassion for the farmer to avoid the medicinal pruning that cuts away the vagrant offshoots which simply dissipate the energy needed for bearing good flowers and abundant fruit. And how painful is this wounding of the branch! It takes faith and especially trust in the Divine Gardener before this pruning can be borne with patience, all for the sake of fruit that will not in fact benefit the branch at all. The fruit is for the making of wine that will gladden the hearts of others. Only in the generous giving of our fruit will its blessing return again to us. Those branches that do not bear fruit, the Father takes away. Notice that they are not cut away. Evidently, they just fall off of their own accord. Cutting is for the fruitful branches. Yes, we, unlike natural branches, have free will, and so we ourselves choose to fall away from the vine. The Father has little choice but to take these stubborn branches away, unless, of course, they choose to be grafted back on to the vine. Now our Lord does not say this, but He does not say everything, so I feel free to expand His image a bit here. Grafting requires another kind of wounding. Both the vine and the branch must be cut and then bound tightly together until the two wounded parts somehow mingle with each other and become one in their mutual healing. When completed, the living water again flows between them. Christ’s wounds are infinitely able to mingle with our wounds and make them one with Him.
We pray for those who have separated themselves from the true Vine, that they may consent to be grafted back into their source of spiritual life and happiness. We pray for those who are lovingly one with the Vine, that they may submit to the pruning that will make them ever more fruitful. And we pray for all, that in our union with Christ, we may be ever more deeply one with each other.