5th Sunday in Easter – Year B
Fr. David Reitzel
Preached: April 29, 2018
Today, Christ gives to his disciples the image of the Vine and the branches. Christ is the vine, and they are the branches, and just as no branch can live and bear fruit unless it is attached to the vine, so no follower of Christ can have spiritual life and bear spiritual fruit unless they are attached to Christ.
It’s an image that is understood almost instantly, for we have all seen vines, or trees, or bushes that have lush green branches shooting off in all directions, while scattered on the ground around them are branches that have fallen off, they are now dry and withered. The lesson is simple, abide in Christ, stay close to Christ, follow Christ, and we will be living branches on the vine not dead ones on the ground.
Simple right? Well, the image is simple, sure. But where am I in this image? Am I the living branch or the dead one? Am I abiding in Christ, or am I detached from him? I mean, with branches it’s easy to know which ones are a part of the vine and which ones are not. The ones attached are green and strong, the ones detached are gray and withered. But we can’t see that in ourselves. So how are we to know?
There are many approaches to figure out whether we are abiding in Christ. We can ask ourselves if we believe all that Christ taught, if we live in the way that Christ asked us to live, we can look at our prayer life to see if it is strong or weak. We can look at many things to see if we abide in Christ, but I want to focus on one. In fact Jesus only focuses on one. Are we bearing fruit?
Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever abides in me, and I in them bears much fruit.” So we need to ask, where’s my fruit?
Just this week I was visiting the grade twos in one of our schools and they asked the question, “Why did you become a priest?” I told them that the only reason anyone becomes a priest is that they were called by God. Of course their eyes lit up as they imagined the telephone ringing and God’s voice on the other end of the line. So I clarified. I said, “God calls us through prayer.” But that answer led to another question, “When you prayed, how did you know it was God?”
I told them what a priest once told me, “You look for the fruit.” You first follow what you think is God’s calling, and if it is from God then there will be fruit. When I entered seminary, the priests who guided us, always made sure we were attentive to the fruits in our life. Were we growing in our faith, were we stronger in it, and more comfortable in it? That’s a fruit. Were we growing in our love for God and our love for serving him? That’s a fruit. Were we coming to a deeper love of those around us, being more attentive to them and less focused on ourselves? That’s a fruit. And in general, were we happy. Were we joyful? Real joy is a fruit. It was by observing the fruit in our lives that we knew we were walking with Christ.
So for yourselves, if you wonder if you abide in Christ the true vine, look for the fruit in your life. The way you live now, are you growing in your faith or shrinking, are you growing in your love of God and others or is that petering out. Are you happy? Are you joyful? Do you make others happy and joyful? All of these and many others are signs that we abide in Christ and he in us. So look for the fruits. And then have the courage start living or changing your life based on what you find.
“I am the vine, you are the branches, whoever abides in me, and I in them bears much fruit.”