The Vine and the Branches

I was asked by the editor of the newsletter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians to write a reflection on today’s readings for this week’s newsletter.  Here are the thoughts I shared on today’s Gospel (John 15:1-8):

In today’s Gospel from St. John, Jesus tells his disciples that he is the true vine and they are the branches.  And, he warns them, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me . . . Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

I find this is, at one and the same time both humbling and empowering, and it is both of those for the same reason.  What we do we do, not through our own power, but through the Spirit of God that flows through us.  Without God, we can do nothing; the branch without the vine will never bear fruit.  That is a humbling.  But at the same time, it is empowering because it reminds us that with Jesus, there is no limit.  “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.”  We see evidence of that fruit in today’s first Mass reading – where we hear that the church was at peace and grew in numbers through the disciples’ preaching in the name of the Lord and the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

For me, the Gospel is also a reminder that what we do – in our ministry and in our lives – is for God’s glory, not our own.  We do what we do, not only through God’s power, but on behalf of the building of God’s kingdom.  It is God’s work and God’s plan we are about, not our own.

Jesus also tells his disciples in the Gospel that the vine grower, the Father, prunes the branches that bear fruit so that they bear more fruit.  We might profitably reflect on the questions: Where do I need some pruning?  What in me needs to be pruned so that I can bear more fruit for God?

Lord Jesus, help me to remember that my strength lies in you, that through your grace I can accomplish much for the greater glory of God.. In the face of all temptation to stray, keep me yoked to you.


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