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The most effective connection

April 26, 2015

Sunday JubilateLa vid

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:1-8

The text of the Gospel for this Sunday brings one of the most beautiful (parables) comparisons of Jesus about the Christian community. From the first verse we heard: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” This tells us that Jesus Christ compares himself to a vine, the fruit of a true grape. What does this mean? What is the true grape, and what is the false one? To understand what the Lord Jesus wants to show us with these words, we must understand from where this comparison about him being as a vine comes from.

As a typical fruit of the region of Palestine, the vine was always very appreciated by the people of Israel. The vine was always a symbol of Israel. Jesus tells us that He is the true vine; the vine that is not true is that which bears no fruit or its fruits rot. Consider that the vine, for those who never saw it grow, is a very delicate plant. If it rains for too many days when the grapes are about to ripen, they may rot. If there is plenty of sunshine, they are prone to drying out and if there is high humidity they don’t grow with full strength. The vines should be planted in an area where the climate is favourable for their growth. This is usually the case in dry climates, such as Palestine.
Jesus is like a vine that never rots and is suitable for any climate or region. Though the people of Israel of the time in which Jesus preached identified themselves as a vine, it was not the true vine; they were mostly false, rotten grapes, spoiled fruit that had to be thrown into the fire.
Why were the people of Israel a false vine? They were a false vine simply because they didn’t bear fruit. They didn’t fulfill the true teachings of the Word of God; they were a people walking on the wrong path. They were perhaps not unlike other peoples of humankind or our own fellow countrymen, for instance.

Who can say that in our country people are actually fulfilling the Word of God; that people are mainly concerned with carrying out the will of God? Speaking in general terms, we can say that most of the news that we find in newspapers, on the radio or on television today tells us of a people for whom the practice of the Word of God is a thing of the past and is not a trendy topic. Participation in churches is minimal and often arises for reasons of tradition or out of custom. And really, what is meant by ‘bearing fruits’? Bearing fruits, in a simple way, is showing, like the bunch of grapes, fruits in our lives, that is, to show the true vine our Lord Jesus Christ, through our own true fruits of love.

He tells us that those who don’t bear fruit will be discarded. But what does it mean to bear fruit in Him? As I said, it is witnessing in our lives the love of Christ, which occurs mainly when we love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor is the fundamental fruit of the vine, which is Christ. The more we love our neighbor, the more we look like Jesus Christ we are a true vine.
How is it that those who don’t bear fruit will be discarded? Actually, that’s part of the same comparison. It is not God who rejects us, but we ourselves. We discard ourselves to live a life of joy in Christ and therefore with our neighbors, on this beautiful earth that He has given us, in this beautiful and rich country in which we live.
There are three ways to be false vines and useless bunches of grapes that deserve to be discarded, or better said, that we discard ourselves: The most obvious way is to completely deny Jesus’ teachings; the other is to listen and then pay lip service without bearing true witness, that is, without our behavior; and the last is to hold a weak faith that only wants to satisfy its own things, and to then abandon the real faith in the end.
Jesus tells us that the only way to be branches, or bunches of the true vine, is by staying with Him and having contact with Him, as the grape to the bunch, the bunch to the branch and the branch to the entire vine. If we feel that bad or unpleasant things happen to us repeatedly, we shouldn’t think that it’s because God is punishing us. It’s unlike God to punish; God is a God of love and kindness. Rather, is it not that we seek out these things by being disconnected from the vine? Jesus tells us in verse 4: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”.

While being in communion with Christ we can experience a life of joy, but not that fleeting joy, which is short, but a joy from the vine which is Christ that is true and enduring. In another verse, Jesus promises us something about this: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”. This is a great promise and we firmly believe that Jesus is willing to fulfil. It is very easy. Do we need a life of comfort or joy or to fulfill other life goals? It is perhaps not the right path to start by asking for these things from the Lord; we should start by trying to be bunches that give the real fruit, trying to live out Christ in our lives, trying to feel Him in His promises when He says that He is with us if we decide to be with Him; trying to love Him while we keep His commandments: and His commandments are to love our neighbor- who is on our side- and all his creation- the land in which we live. This is what it is to witness Christ in our lives, this is the good fruit.
These verses for today from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for the third Sunday of Easter, draw our attention, while they want to offer us the solution, that is, the special combination to grow as individuals, as a community and as society.
The comparison of the vine tells us that the good grape is Jesus Christ and that the farmer is His Father, our Father. How can we bear good fruit in community? Staying connected with the Word of God daily, prayer and the practice of God’s love to our neighbors. That’s what it is to witness.
It can happen in life that if we disconnect from the services, the message of Jesus Christ and from communion with our brothers and sisters, that we begin to feel self-sufficient and we lose touch with God and we come to believe that we don’t need (a) God. If this happens, this is a clear signal to realize that we have started to decay spiritually, to spoil, like the bunch of grapes. Let us try to stay in the Word of God by not only listening but also through our personal reading. If you have difficulty reading, ask someone to read to you or look for audio copies of the Bible and try especially to understand what Jesus especially wants to speak to us with the Gospels. Let us also be connected with God through our daily conversation with Him, our prayer. Prayer, when getting up in the morning, prepares the Christian with extremely strong weapons for facing the day and helps us to find God’s path for us on that day. Full-time Prayer strengthens the same thing. Prayer when going to bed at night prepares us for a pleasant rest.
The message for this Sunday mainly draws attention to two things: Firstly, how to deal with our pain and the normal problems that every Christian experiences. Our strength to face them depends on the renewal of our spiritual strength that we receive through daily connection with God. And secondly, that the only way that this connection is achieved is by means of prayer and praise. In order to bear fruit, we must be connected with our neighbor, to our community, we must be loving to our neighbor, that is to say, we must be loving of God. This is what it is to be good branches or bunches of fruit and to be joined to the true vine, which is Jesus Christ.  Amen

Soli Deo Gloria

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