Photo illustration by Phil Younk
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Through baptism, we’re part of Jesus’ vine
Based on the Gospel of John 15:1-8
Outside influences or inside divine life-giving love and grace?
The constant availability of communication media resources brings to us a steady stream of world leaders, political figures, various celebrities, media personalities and ordinary people in the news. They all influence and motivate us in many ways by their ideas, their manner of speaking and their example, even by the way they dress. Jesus goes deeper.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus uses the familiar image of the grapevine to explain his teaching. Grapes, grapevines and vineyards were often used by Jesus to illustrate his Gospel.
Growing grapes and making wine were important work to the Jewish people. The grapevines were planted on terraced land above their farm fields. They were planted in rows about eight feet apart in order to give them plenty of growing room and to allow workers to move through the rows. Each spring, the workers pruned the grapevines by cutting off the less productive branches. These branches were then gathered, piled and burned. Any weeds around the good branches were pulled and the ground was loosened and watered. The good branches were then propped up with forked sticks to allow the grapes to grow and ripen in the summer sun until harvest time.
In this Last Supper discourse to his disciples, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower,” and “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Just as the vine pours sap into the branches and causes flowers to bloom and fruit to appear, so does Jesus pour his love and grace into their hearts to make them brave, committed and productive disciples.
We become part of the vine through baptism. Jesus says for us to live and grow we must stay connected to him. Without Jesus, we can do nothing. He gives us his transforming love and grace to renew our hearts and to be good in all we say and do to produce good fruit. God the Father prunes anything in us that keeps us from growing stronger in faith and love.
The church, the sacraments, the Scriptures, and prayer all help us to stay connected to Jesus. By being faithful disciples and showing love, care, kindness, generosity and forgiveness to others, God cares for all our needs and we continue to grow in grace and produce good fruit – to make a difference not only here on earth but for all eternity.
When people see us being prayerful, loving, caring, kind, generous and forgiving, they see our “fruit” and know we are Jesus’ disciples. Then Jesus says his Father is honored and glorified.