Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Today’s gospel is part of Jesus’ long discourse delivered to his disciples at the last supper. Having stressed keeping his commandments will be the proof that they love him and that anybody loves him will be loved by his Father, Jesus described the intimate union that exist between him and his followers under the image of a vine and its branches. He further elaborated that the fruit produced by the vine and branches, that is produced by Jesus and his followers, will be God’s eternal glory.
As usual, Jesus used images that were familiar to his audience in his teaching. The Old Testament often used the image of a vine or a vineyard to represent the Jews, the chosen people of God. For example, the song of the unfruitful vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7, "Yet I planted you as a choice vine, from the purest stock. How then did you turn degenerate and become a wild vine?” in Jeremiah 2:21, or the useless vine in Ezekiel 15. Using these images of the chosen people in the Old Testament, which were shadows to show what was to come, Jesus pointed out that he and his followers will become the new chosen people because he is the true vine and the true vine will bear fruit.
Despite the fact that he is the true vine, Jesus reiterates that he is only the instrument used by God, the Father, in his salvation plan. It is the Father who plants and cares for the good vine. As a measure to ensure more fruit can be produced, branches are pruned and lopped off by vine dresser. In the spiritual context, Jesus told his followers that they have been cleansed from useless growths as soon as he gives them the revelation of God.
Though they are cleansed, Jesus reminded them that as a branch they will wither and die unless they remain attached and united with the vine, which is Jesus himself. This reminder points out the importance of the cooperating of human values with the grace of God through Jesus Christ, who opens the channels of divine grace for mankind, in his incarnation, death and resurrection. Without Jesus, we can do nothing. All our efforts will be useless, unless what we do is what God wants.
Those followers who rely on everything but God’s grace will wither and die spiritually. They will be leaving God gradually because there will be no life within them. Contrary, those who follow Jesus and are in intimate union with him as vine and branches will be granted any request made in prayer. The reason is what they request and do is what God wants as well.
It is in the union of divinity and humanity that we can enjoy the perfect harmony between God and mankind. This perfect harmony gives us the eternal peace in what we do and serve. Our good work in Jesus Christ glorifies God the Father as Jesus glorifies God the Father. If there is only one grace that I can ask for, let me ask for grace of abiding in Jesus as a branch abiding with vine, then all the rest will fall into the right places. Amen.