Don’t you love when someone says something about a passage of Scripture that helps you understand the passage in a way you never did before? I sure do.
In yesterday’s Gospel from St. John, Jesus tells his disciples (and us) that he is the true vine and they (we) are the branches. The part about us remaining in Jesus and he remaining in us all sounds quite beautiful.
But Jesus also says something that sounds very harsh: that any branch that does not bear fruit will be taken away.
In his homily at St. Benedict’s Monastery yesterday, the priest spoke about that line in a way that had never occurred to me before, but that makes the line much more understandable – and harsh in the way it had seemed to me before. The homily was short and to the point.
A branch needs the vine for nourishment. But the branch doesn’t just take nourishment from vine and keep it for itself. Instead, the branch takes that nourishment and uses it to bear fruit. The fruit produced by the branch is not for the benefit of the branch, but rather for others. If all the branch does is take nourishment from the vine without producing any fruit, it is not doing what it was created to do.
The priest didn’t spend much time spinning out the meaning and application of the metaphor. He didn’t need to. The lesson is pretty clear: If we do is cling to Jesus and do not bear fruit for the life of the world from that nourishment, we are not really doing our job.