My Dear Sisters and Brothers!
When Jesus used the image of vine in the Gospel he did this on purpose. As vine doesn’t have any value if it doesn’t bear fruit as we don’t have any value if we don’t bear fruit in our Christian life. “Every branch that bears no fruit my Father cuts away” says Jesus. As we know most of the grapes are used to make wine. In the Holy Scriptures wine is a symbol of love. However love presented in the Bible, is not just words and mere talk but something real and active – as St. John says in the second reading. A few weeks ago when we were celebrating the Most Holy Three days of Paschal Triduum we saw Jesus showing his love for us as he sacrificed his life for us. These days we are exposed to the culture which uses the word love for things which have very little to do with love. From Jesus we learn that love is always sacrificial, you sacrifice yourself for the sake of the person you love.
This kind of life and love demands a great deal of faith and maturity. We do need lots of faith and maturity to forget ourselves and focus on God and others. Out of grape we have wine but what comes from activities we undertake every day? Are they done for the sake of God and others or are they just about me? At this stage we need to ask ourselves which way we want to go. Am I happy with a fake of love which is just a cover for my selfishness or do I want to allow Jesus to transform my heart so that I can care more about God and others?
The rest of this homily will be for those who have chosen the second option. What I will try to do is to present the process of the transformation of human heart. Today I’d like to focus on two things from the Gospel: remaining in Jesus and being pruned.
“Whoever remains in me bears fruit in plenty” says Jesus. At Baptism we were grafted into Jesus. The grace of God flowed from Jesus to us so that we may embrace his commandments because “whoever keeps his commandment lives is God and God in him” and in another passage: “Not those who say: Lord. Lord, are my disciples, but those who do the will of my Father.” Let us ask ourselves: “Do I accept ALL the things Jesus teaches us through our Catholic Church?” If I do I am like the branch of vine mentioned in the Gospel” I remain in Jesus and I draw the Holy Spirit from Jesus which makes me bear much fruit.
The second thing mentioned by Jesus in the Gospel is about being pruned. Next time when you visit a vineyard, before you go to the shop to taste wine and to buy a few bottles, take a close look of a bush of vine. What fascinates me is that a bush of vine is actually one big wound. I can’t think about any other plant or tree which is wounded so badly. Some time ago when I went to the Barossa Valley in South Australia I could see bushes of vine nearly a hundred years old. They had more marks of pruning then untouched spots. However I didn’t think that it was the result of activity of a sadistic owner but I saw very clearly his care to mobilize vine to bear more, stronger grapes. After a hundred years they were still bearing fruit.
In the Gospel Jesus tells his Apostles that they are pruned by the means of his word. His word does prune us. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes we may think that Jesus’ teaching presented to us by the Church limits our life or takes away some things from us. The truth is: it does all these things but the purpose of this pruning is to strengthen us to bear fruit which turns to be love. Like an experienced vinedresser God knows what should grow further or what should be cut off. He knows we can’t grow out of control but he can’t take care of us if we refused to keep his commandments. We have been grafted into Jesus but we need faith to let God continue his work of pruning by the means of his word. Let us pray for faith to let him do that.