Jesus said: “I am the vine and you are the branches.” Jesus clearly expresses the intimate union that must exist between Jesus and his followers under the image of vine and its branches. Father is the vinedresser and He prunes the good ones and cuts off the useless ones. He does the pruning as part of the formation He gives us to be his good children. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his children” (Hebrews 12:6). The image of a vine or the vineyard to represent the chosen people of God was often used in the Old Testament. Israel was pictured as the vineyard of the Lord and the Jews as the branches of God’s vine. The coins of the Maccabees had the symbol of vine and the Temple had the golden vine carved in front of the Holy Place. Now Jesus says that he and his followers will form the new chosen people. Once again Jesus uses the very familiar image drawn from their day to day lives to express the divine mutuality that exists between the Father Son and the Disciples.
The vine branches receive their life giving sap from the vine stem and produce fruits. Without the life giving sap the branches will dry up, die and decay. Everything is interconnected, what enables the branches to have life, bloom and produce fruits is the secret life-giving sap. God’s indwelling presence is our Lifeline. Without Him we are nothing. We are completely dependent on Him every day. God’s presence surrounds us as the air we breathe in surrounds us. There is no place He is absent. God is present in a special way in the believer through His Spirit. To have this intimate union with him ‘abide’ or ‘stay’ in him always.
“In Him that we live, and move, and exist” (Acts 17:28). Jesus teaches us how to abide in Him as branches abide in the trunk of the vine. The connection with the life giver is established by God; and it is maintained by us through faith and prayer, by trust and worship. Our willingness to receive from God the life giving sap is manifested by our readiness to be the living parts of Christ’s living body the church. We remain part of the vine when we are willing to obey the commandments that Jesus has given us, when we love each other are willing to be seen with the rest of the branches in the vine. We remain as part of the vine and produce fruit when we commune with God. Communion with God and God’s church is the connection to the vine which feeds us. Communion with God involves our heart and our will: the heart that loves all things that God has made and the will that gives Him praise for them. Life becomes meaningful for anyone, only when a person let the true divine presence in oneself to bloom, unfold, and be fruitful.
Those who do not abide in Jesus cut themselves off from their source of life. They will be like the branches which wither and die as they are not attached to the vine. At the same time, it is not enough to be an ordinary branch on the tree. It also must produce much fruit. It is not just enough to be a Christian and fulfill one’s religious duties and Sunday obligations. A Christian should be one who follows the commands of Jesus to love his neighbor. Jesus insists that if they persevere in their sinful attitudes and fail in their duty as the followers of Christ, they will be cut off from the life-giving vine, Jesus himself. This renders them useless for anything other than for being thrown into the fire and burnt. On the other hand those disciples who remain in Jesus and have an intimate union with him, create a situation where whatever they ask of the Father will be done for them. They are empowered for fruitfulness.
“Consider the nature God has given us. It is the highest in this visible world. It is capable of eternal life and of being perfectly united to God’s Divine Majesty.”
St. Francis de Sales.