Together, we can make it happen!
This week’s gospel is linked closely to that of last week. Like the gospel about the Good Shepherd, Jesus uses another simple image of the vine and the branches, to teach the people about his relationship with them, and theirs with him. He uses an image with which all of his listeners would be familiar, and it would be very easy for them to understand. It is also easy for us to understand too. So let’s have a look at it.
This is really a very powerful teaching. We are attached to Jesus, just as he is to the Father. We can draw our life from him, so that he can produce fruit in us and through us, if we want to respond! In another part of the gospel Jesus tells us, “You didn’t choose me, I chose you, and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last”. He speaks very simply and very clearly, even to the point of telling us that, apart from him, we can do nothing.
Taking this theme even further, Jesus establishes and speaks of a direct chain of connection between the Father, himself, and us. It is obvious that he sees and thinks of us as being called to share in the divine life of the Trinity. We really need to pause and reflect upon that point…it is just so powerful, and thus we are empowered through the Holy Spirit to be The Living editions of the Good news! Not Museum artefacts! They are dead! Sometimes I wonder where the joy has gone with some of our Leaders and faithful.
Notice that a pruned Vine looks very much like a modern art form of Jesus on the Cross, or even a yolk for Oxen.
Pruning is necessary if fruit is to be brought forth in abundance from a vine, bush or tree. However, the Gardner has to have the wisdom to know what to prune, and how much, and what the possibilities could be as a result of this action. Branches are pruned to strengthen the tree’s growth and sometimes to produce more abundant fruit or flowers. Quite often, through trials and tribulations, we are pruned. Any worthwhile growth in our lives takes place during times of struggle, and never when everything is smooth, calm, and even. Sometimes we are pruned by each other. This can come about within a real spirit of love and forgiveness; it is on this basis of trust that we can tell the story just as it is to each other. In this act of faith, we can sometimes suffer, and bleed through the truth that someone else has told us, because it may well be the truth about us, and it might hurt, and the truth may be calling us to change, hence spiritual pruning is at work! What can hamper this growth??? Pride, Jealousy etc.….all the opposite gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Suffering can be another kind of pruning. Generally we don’t go looking for suffering in our life, it somehow finds us. Suffering can enable us to be more sensitive to other people, it can knock a few chips of the old block, which is me, and it can invite us to love more deeply. I once heard a great old Passionist Father Bonaventure CP, say to me….’Sometimes Our Lord puts us on our backs, so that we can look up into His eyes’ a great wise saying from a man who lived and grew through his relationship with Jesus and mission to His people. The great English writer C.S Lewis once said, “Jesus didn’t come to take suffering and pain away, He came to fill it with His presence”. That is something to chew on, because in lots of ways that is very true. Pruning can also be used as another metaphor when it comes to refining gold and silver in fire. Let check this out from the Old Testament Prophet Malachai
THE SILVERSMITH’S REFLECTION
For he is like a REFINER’S FIRE, and like a FULLERS’ ALKALI.
He will sit as a Refiner and Purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like Gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord.
A person had observed that there is something remarkable in that expression of the Prophet Malachi:
‘He will sit as a REFINER AND PURIFER OF SILVER’.
It was agreed that a silversmith should be called in to give his opinion on the subject. Without disclosing the object, he was asked about the process of refining silver, which he described in detail.
‘But do you sit watching while the work of refining is going on?’ one asked. ‘Oh. Yes’, replied the silversmith, ‘I must sit with my eyes constantly fixed on the furnace, for if the necessary time be extended in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured’.
Christ sees it needful to put His children into the furnace; but He is seated by the side of it; His eye fixed steadily on the work of refining and purifying. His wisdom and His love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; even the hairs on their heads are numbered.
The silversmith said he still had to mention that he only knew when the process of purifying was complete, by seeing his own face reflected in the silver. Even so, when Christ shall see His own face in His children, He will know that the work of purifying is accomplished.
God’s Word can prune us as well. Every time that we hear God’s Word, there is an inbuilt invitation for us to respond. That response in us may call us to be pruned, to change our ways, our attitudes and values and hence endeavour to put on the mind of Christ. St. Paul goes into further details in his letter to the Philippians 2:1-5. You might like to look up the quote from the New Testament.
O Lord, grant that we may never be separated from you, so that we may produce in the world the fruits of faith, hope, and love. Amen