Acts 9 : 26 31 1 John 3 : 18 24 John 15 : 1 8 IN the courtyard of our church we have a very beautiful vine, which grew there for several years without producing any fruit. It was serving a purely decorative purpose until an Italian parishioner began to prune it.
At first it looked as if he had
destroyed the plant. People were wondering whether it would ever grow again. It did and it began to flourish, producing several bunches of grapes each year. The pruning gave new life to the vine.
The branches that looked good but produced nothing had to be trimmed away so that the whole life giving force of the plant could be focussed in a direction that enabled it to bear fruit.
St John believes that the word of God has the same power of achievement in our own lives. "You are pruned already, by the means of the word I have spoken to you" (John 15 : 3). It is God's word, spoken through Jesus, which enables us to grow in a way that our lives become fruitful. In practical terms this means we have to let go of some elf the options which life offers.
We cannot always follow our own desires and hopes but must learn to discipline ourselves to live within the fundamental norms of justice and love.
The prophets frequently used the image of the vine to illustrate the kind of relationship that should exist between God and his people (cf Isa 5 : 1 7). It not only underlined the need for intimacy but it also drew attention to the fact that a loving relationship calls for discipline as well.
Jesus is "the true vine" (John 15 : 1) because he lives his life in accordance with the will of the Father. The disciple who lives in communion with Jesus will have his or her prayer granted, because that prayer will always stem from the desire to do God's will (John 15 : 7).
The reading from the first letter of St John reminds us
however that the real value of the vine is not in its looks but in its fruits, "Our love is not just words or mere talk, but something real and active" (1 John 3 : 18).
As Christians we must, therefore, demonstrate our own intimate relationship with God by the way we live. A truly Christian spirituality, in other words, calls for an active concern for the daily needs of one's neighbours, a concern that is rooted in heartfelt prayer and in a willingness to curb the natural urge to satisfy one's own needs and desires.
That means more than sitting at home waiting for a knock on the door. The second Vatican Council reminds us of our duty to seek out those in need. "Wherever people are to be found who are in want of food and drink, of clothing, housing, medicine, work, education, the means necessary for leading a truly human life; wherever there are people racked by misfortune or illness, people suffering exile or imprisonment, Christian charity should go in search of them and find them out; comfort them with devoted care, and give them the help that will relieve their needs" (Lay people, para 8).
We have only to look at the plight of millions in our world today to see the need for love that is "real and active".