From the Catholic Liturgy for the 5th Sunday of Easter, April 29, 2018. Gospel: John 15:1-8. Topic: Fruit of a Eucharistic Life
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses as a metaphor something that is very familiar to his hearers - and one that is relevant to us as well, who live so close to the wine country - that of a vineyard, of a vine with all of its extending branches. Capture in your mind for a moment a mental picture of those lush vineyards, so green and fruitful that we find throughout Napa and Sonoma. Now imagine what they would be like if the vineyard owner ignored them, forgot about them, and didn't send any of his workers into the vineyard to tend to them. Or perhaps you, don't need to imagine it, maybe you took a ride through the wine country after the terrible October fires and saw the ruin and devastation? Either way, the image is the same: dry wood, broken branches, not even a hint of juicy grapes.
What a powerful reminder that should be for us of Jesus' words, "without me you can do nothing...apart from me you cannot bear fruit." These words might sting us a bit when first hearing them, hurting our pride, but we know deep down that it's true. We know that we can do nothing of deep significance, nothing truly worthwhile and noble, without God.
And as for us being unselfish, loving, kind, and merciful like Jesus, we know that it’s impossible to do without Christ and his grace.
So, the all-important question seems to be: how do we stay connected to Jesus? How can we remain in Him and have his life running through us like those branches on a vine? I think we find an answer within the context of this Gospel passage. Jesus spoke these words at the Last Supper, during which He gave us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Gift of His Real Presence – body, blood, soul and divinity – hidden under the form of the consecrated bread and wine. And along with this, at the Last Supper he also gave us the Great Command to love and serve others just as He had done.
And there, I believe, we find our answer. We remain in Jesus and He remains in us by means of Holy Communion. And we bear the fruit of these Holy Communions in our lives by the love we show towards those with whom we live, work, socialize or otherwise encounter in daily life. This is why the Eucharist is nicknamed the Sacrament of Charity, the Sacrament of Divine Love.
And it is our responsibility as Christians to live what we receive in the Eucharist. St. John tells us as much in today’s second reading. He warns us to not just say we are Christians who love others, but to show it in our deeds. He says that those who believe in Jesus and keep the commandments remain in God and God remains in them.
Today’s Gospel is a good reminder for us to ponder over our lives in the light of WHO the Eucharist is, WHAT the Eucharist means, and HOW the Eucharist gives us the divine energy to love as Jesus loves. It's an opportunity for us to ask the Holy Spirit for an ever-deeper faith in the Abiding Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and for the grace to remain in Jesus and bear the fruit of a genuinely Christian life to the glory of God our Father.