I have a more than passing interest in wine, and so also an interest in vines. Therefore it caught my attention when in today’s Gospel Jesus says: “I am the true vine,” He claims to be the TRUE vine, or in other translations, the REAL vine. He is the authentic vine. There are other vines that promise life, but they are phonies. They cannot produce the fullness of life, eternal life. Only Jesus is the real thing, the “true vine.” Only in Him comes the fullness of life. We may think that wealth, or popularity, or fame, or power, or lots of possessions, or drugs, alcohol and sex, will bring us fullness of life. And they may satisfy for a time. But over time, and especially in difficult times, they will fail us. They do not bring the fullness of life.
Still, we are attracted by these other ways of getting life. So we need to be pruned, that is, have the false starts and unhealthy growths cut off. Jesus tells us that His Father is the vine grower. Jesus tells us about the Father: “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”
Now pruning hurts. Let to ourselves we will let all these false starts and dead ends and side attractions grow, sapping our focus and spiritual life. So the pruning is necessary. If you go to one of the wineries around here you will see row after row of carefully tended vines. They all look beautiful. But they don’t naturally grow like that. They got that way as the result of a lot of work and care. They have all been pruned and tended to. The same is true of you and me. We will only be productive branches with a lot of work and care and pruning.
We need to be pruned of talking about other people behind their backs; pruned of laziness and indifference; pruned of prejudice and fear pruned of selfishness, of impatience and brusqueness with other people; pruned of envy and greed and clinging to bitterness. We need to be pruned of these things, and much more, so that we can become more of what we were created to be, which is to be loving people.
We are able do this because we are branches rooted in the TRUE vine, drawing our life from Jesus. The result is that we bear fruit. What kind fruit do we bear? Certainly not grapes and figs and bananas. Rather, all the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The traditional Fruits of the Holy Spirit as St Paul lists them in his Letter to the Galatians are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-3).
The first and most important in the list of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit is LOVE. Love of neighbor, love of all other people, love of ourselves, and even love for our enemies, this is the Fruit of remaining deeply centered in Christ Jesus, and His remaining in us.
Jesus tells us: “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Only in Jesus can we live in this way, producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And if we do remain in Jesus, we will produce abundantly.
This is God’s plan for us. Jesus tells us: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
God the Father is delighted, and rejoices, and is glorified when we bear the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience and all the rest. It is hard to believe that we can give glory to God, and yet we do. “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
Jesus offers us this wonderful opportunity to fulfill what we were created to be, to be filled with the fullness of life. He tells us: “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”