Whoever remains in me with me in him bears fruit in plenty

In last Sunday’s gospel we heard how Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus describes himself as the true Vine, the Heavenly Father as the Vinedresser and his followers as the branches.

Many books in the Old Testament used the image of the vine to refer to Israel. In Isaiah 5 the terms ‘vineyard’ and ‘vine’ refer to Israel and Judah. The Lord expected his people to produce good fruits of justice and righteousness but what they produced was bloodshed and cries of distress.

In Jeremiah 2:21 God complained that he planted Israel as his choicest vine. It was sound and reliable. But it turned against him. It became corrupt, a wild vine. Even today, God expects of every people and every nation to produce the good fruits of justice and righteousness.

We can only bear good fruits if we, the branches of the vine, are willing to remain in Christ who is the true vine. Christ says: “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4). Pope Benedict XVI said in one of his Angelus messages that Christ chose to remain with us in the Eucharist so that we could remain in him (18 March 2007). Just as the Lord invites us to remain with him, we need also, like the disciples to Emmaus, to invite the Lord to remain with us. If the Lord remains with us, then we have the sure hope to confront all the problems that come our way.

Christ is the true vine “who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 755). The Church as the Body of Christ can only bear good fruits when she dwells in Christ and is united to Him. If we dwell in Christ, then we can produce those fruits which St Paul said are the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If we do not abide in Christ, we cannot produce these or other good fruits.

We notice how not abiding in Christ and abiding in him reflected in the life of St Paul. In the First Reading St Paul faces resistance from other apostles because of his dark past. Before his conversion Paul persecuted the Body of Christ. In other words, Paul’s life before conversion can be described as a life cut off from Christ. Paul’s life after conversion became a life of a branch grafted to Christ the Vine.

In his defence of Paul, Barnabas explained how the Lord appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. The appearance of the Lord to Paul changed his life. We can ask ourselves whether our past life works against us. Does our past life continue to cast a dark shadow over us? Do we really want to abide in Christ? What then should we do to dwell in Christ? The Lord told us: Cut off from me you can do nothing.

St John in his first letter proposes that we should love one another with real love. The evangelist makes it clear that real love is not mere talk or empty words. Love is real and active. Christ loved us with real love. Dying on the cross for us demonstrated this. Christ once said, “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

We can have the same love of Christ when we have the same mind like him. The mind of self-emptying. With this mind Christ chose to dwell among us so that we can dwell in him. If we have the mind of Christ and dwell in him, we can bear fruit in plenty.

May our Mother Mary pray for us.