“Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5
Today’s Gospel (John 15:1-18), oftentimes referred to as the “vine and branches discourse,“ speaks of our dependency on God and our need to remain in Jesus as he remains in us, a common theme throughout the Gospels. “He (God) takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit,” proclaims the Apostle John as this passage unfolds, a nod to God’s love for his children made manifest in his desire for an ever-deepening relationship with each one of us.
So let’s talk about the pruning process, more specifically what it entails. I can say with great certainty that it includes the carrying of one’s cross, enduring those things that embolden us, strengthen us, and galvanize us on our journey home to the Father’s House. Saint Padre Pio once said about suffering “Do not fear adversities because they place us at the foot of the Cross, and the Cross places it at the gates of Heaven, where it will find He who triumphed over death and will introduce it to eternal life.” The pruning process is not fun. It can be arduous, painful, at times seemingly hopeless.
Those of you with a passion for horticulture know that after a plant has been pruned it may appear unready to bear fruit. So it goes for us. Perhaps we will not bear fruit immediately in the aftermath. In this instance, the pruning process requires patience. But that’s OK. As Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel, he remains in us. The Hebrew word for “remain” is yashab, which means to “settle,” “stay,” or “dwell.” Jesus is here to stay. He intends to remain with us and within us for eternity. The more we in turn remain in him, the more he can fortify and fill us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, virtues such as understanding, self control and wisdom. We can then go forth and touch those whom God has so painstakingly and meticulously put in our lives.
Welcome the opportunity to be spiritually pruned by a loving God who wants nothing more for us than to grow and be nurtured by his unending grace, so that we may in turn lovingly bear fruit in a spiritually starved world. Let go of the human foible of always wanting to be in control and simply let the Lord work, allowing his love to flourish within you. For in the words of Saint Augustine, “Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.”