Acts 9:26-31 I Jn 3:18-24 Jn 15:1-8
In the late 1980s a fire destroyed a building on the lower Eastside of Manhattan. An alarm was sounded and the trucks and personnel arrived in plenty of time to fight the fire. The exit doors worked properly. The steps were clear. The people got out of the building quickly and in order. However, the fire burned out of control and the building had to be demolished. When the firemen arrived, the hoses on the wall were installed properly. There were hoses hundreds of feet in length–clearly sufficient to put the fire out. It was discovered too late, however, that the city water line had never been connected to this part of the system. It was a deadly oversight. To live a human life disconnected from the living God is tragic as well. Jesus did more than come to live among us. He is the life giving vine and we are the branches.
In the gospels we find many analogies of the Christian life. No single one can give us an adequate picture. Like any good teacher Jesus uses many examples to get across his point. This parable of the vine is a particularly apt one. Jesus says: “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser…I am the vine; you are the branches”. Now looking at things from this angle, it seems that Jesus has the more passive role and we have to do a lot more of the work. He is the vine who feeds and nourishes us, the branches. And our job is to bear much fruit. We can do that only if we remain in Christ.
If you want to be what God wants you to be it is necessary to abide in Him. The phrase, “Remain in me” is repeatedly used in today’s gospel. It simply means stay hooked up, stay connected and maintains communication. Some of us use the dial up modem to connect to internet. Sometimes we get connected, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes our connection is a bit slow, sometimes we get booted off altogether. Comcast Network says that if we had cable, we’d be connected all the time, faster, able to do a lot more. Jesus is stressing that He wants the same kind of connection for us.
The conditions to live united to Christ are clear. We live in him, by keeping God’s word continually in our mind and making it the guide of our actions; by maintaining a prayer life; by receiving the sacraments that draw out his grace; by avoiding all sins and yielding to the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Above all, we abide in Christ by being united with one another as a community of love. There can be no such thing as a lonely Christian in a loving community. Our love for one another has to be real. “Children, let us love not in word or speech but indeed and truth” (I Jn 3:18). We are called to be the fruit and drink especially of the lonely, the ill, the poor in our neighborhood and communities. We are meant to be sources of nourishment that revive the spirits, feed the hopes and enliven the bodies of others.
The pains of life are not signs of being cut away from Christ; on the contrary they are indications of the opposite. Because we are united to Christ like branches, God will prune us to promote growth of the branches. If we remain in Christ both in good times and bad, we will enjoy much peace and consolation as the members of the early church did: “The church was at peace and enjoyed the increased consolation of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31). If we remain in Christ we will find joy in him, not the superficial joy of prosperity suggested by slick television commercials, but a joy that comes from the fulfillment of one’s potentials. Therefore try always to be connected to Jesus.