USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Good News Reflection:
How healthy is your branch of the Church? I’m not talking about your parish. As we see in the Gospel reading today, all of us who belong to Christ are part of the same far-reaching vineyard. Jesus is the vine, and because we are all attached to him, we all share the same calling: to bear good fruit.
Why is there so much evil in the world? Why doesn’t God raise his almighty hand against war, against abuse, against abortion, against criminals, or against any evil that’s corrupting the world and our lives? It’s a familiar question. The answer is: He does! But we forget one very important factor.
Jesus and the Bride — the Church — have become one body. He commissioned us — all Christians everywhere — to continue the work he began. He is the vine, and we are the branches that spread out across the earth. He feeds us with the life-blood of his divine vine to give us — who are his earthly body — the power to grow strong and large and bear abundant fruit.
If the branches do not bear good fruit, or enough good fruit, evil has room to grow and keep on going.
Or to put it into other terms: Jesus conquers evil through his presence in us. First, his body died on the cross for our sins and then conquered death, defeating the power of evil. Now, all those who join themselves to his risen body participate in this victory. (This happens in a very concrete way when we receive the Eucharist.) Connected to Jesus, like grape branches that are connected to their vine, we are strengthened and empowered by his Holy Spirit, which flows through all the healthy branches.
Consider any problem going on in your parish. How would things change if all the clergy and staff and members of ministries were to collaborate prayerfully and humbly in resolving this problem as one body, one huge, interconnected grapevine united to Christ?
There’s no value in complaining that there are not enough healthy branches bearing good grapes. We each have a personal responsibility to stay closely connected to Christ and grow the best fruit that we possibly can. How healthy is your own connection to Christ? Are you doing whatever is necessary to prune away everything — everything! — that works against your joint mission in the Church to overcome evil?
Pruning requires, of course, relying on the Holy Spirit’s discernment and the snipping power of our Father’s sheers. The more we prune, the healthier our branch gets. Our grapes grow larger and more abundant. Sure it hurts when something gets cut from our lives, but ignoring the need to prune is exactly what allows evil to run rampant in the world. Why? Because it hinders the growth of the good stuff, which is the evil-defeating power of the holiness of Christ that we have flowing within us.
Thank You, Lord, for being with me in trials, for drawing me closer to You, and for helping me accomplish great things for the glory of the Father. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica