John 15: 1-8

Jesus said to his disciples “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

Gospel Reflection

I’m not much of a gardener, but I do know this: There are two types of branches – those that are fruitful and those that wither. Withering branches are the dark, limp ones. They must be pruned, because they demand energy from the vine. Even as they die.

It’s a fascinating truth: withering branches demand energy to die. It’s why the healthiest plants are pruned; gardeners only keep the fruitful branches in order to preserve the life of the plant.

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit.” Meaning, the Lord prunes those withering branches in our hearts, those that drain us, those that sap our energy, those that are not bearing fruit.

Think of how much energy it takes to hold a grudge, for example. That anger is unhealthy; it saps our energy. Yet grudges can be terribly difficult to let go of, which is why we need God’s help. We need him to prune us.

Or think of how heavy grief can be, especially without faith. It makes us close in on ourselves. Or the toll greed, selfishness, and pride can take on a person’s relationships. Every so often, even a healthy Christian heart needs pruning. Perhaps we all do after this extended period of lockdown and self-quarantining.

What branches – what areas of my life – are not bearing fruit? Where do I need to be pruned? At times being pruned is painful and humbling. Think of the humility it takes to ask for forgiveness. But the Lord, the Divine Gardener, only makes us holier, happier people; people that bear lasting fruit.