Today’s Reconciliation Scripture is featured in the Easter Lectionary on the fifth Sunday, cycle B. My pastor selected and preached it last week at the parish’s reconciliation service. He’ll repeat it for this Wednesday. Here’s the text:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
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.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
I find the vine and branches metaphor works much better than the current Catholic fad, groom and bride. It’s blatantly obvious that not only our faith, but our very existence is dependent on Christ. Our pastor noted that a branch could tell the vine, “I don’t need you.” It would be foolhardy to cut oneself off from the main plant. And the effects would be subtle. A cut branch doesn’t die at first. But over a number of days will wither. The failure will come so gradually that one can’t perceive it minute to minute. But eventually, death will come.
One thing that strikes me in this passage is the very last line. We bear fruit and become disciples. It’s not a matter of conscious choice or action on our part. God tends us and enables us to bear the fruit. And that is the path to discipleship. It’s less a matter of declaring ourselves disciples and controlling our own fruit production from there. We do not, cannot operate independently of God in the realm of faith.