Reflection by Aidan Troy [Aodhán O Troighthigh] Please note: only the view of the above.
Last week, Jesus came as the Good Shepherd to care for us. This week, Jesus tells us that he is the Vine and that we are the branches. The vine, like the shepherd, is an image familiar throughout the Scriptures. As some shepherds were good and others not, so some vines blossomed and produced fruit, while others withered and died. But, as Jesus is the Good Shepherd, so He is the True Vine.
The vine is an intimate image – the blood of God flows into our hearts and lives. His life is ours. We don’t go through a ‘transfusion’, but rather are reborn in Baptism into His life. In Holy Communion, He comes to us as the Bread and Wine now made into His Body and Blood.
From God as Vine, there is a welcome for every person who is grafted onto Christ. God does not do ‘exclusivity’. He freely chooses to share life and love with all who accept Him. Being a Vine’s branch is beyond my words to capture. It is to be human with Divine life flowing through us by grace.
From time to time, I see a tree that has been struck by lightning or attacked by some disease. In some instances, it is so badly damaged that it must be cut down. Even when the branch is fruitful, God ‘prunes’ us to bear more fruit. To do this pruning, it is not a secateurs or clippers that is used. “You are pruned already by means of the Word that I have spoken to you.’ What a lovely thought.
Where to start? Why not with the second reading at Mass today. St John calls, ‘My children, our love is not to be just words or talk, but something real and active.’ It can be easy to talk and find words to describe what Jesus asks. Putting into practice is the real challenge.
It always means more to me when I see you, who have been pruned by the Word of God, putting His words into action. When people who do not know Jesus, see you putting love into action, they may ask, why is this person so generous towards others? This way of acting is your evangelisation in our world.
Staying attached to Jesus is key for our growth in life. Jesus gives a stark warning, ‘cut off from me you can do nothing.’ Sometimes, I forget that I am a branch who lives by the strength of the vine. That can be dangerous as I can slip into thinking that I can become holy by my own efforts. It is not possible. To be aware that I am dependent is both a challenge and a relief.
It is a challenge, because my pride can want to see all that happens as ‘my’ work and not His. It is a relief to be dependent, because I then do my very best but realise that He is only one who can bring the true fruit that lasts into eternal life.
Life is a striving for closer union with Jesus the Vine and knowing that I have yet to become a true disciple. ‘It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.’ As branches, we help each other become Jesus’ disciples.