Congregation for the Clergy: I am the Vine, You are the Branches
We are invited to live our lives now, in God through Jesus Christ
The readings we hear today penetrate us and draw us more closely into the new reality inaugurated by the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ."I am the true vine" (Jn 15: 1-8). By describing Himself with the biblical image of the vine, Jesus recalls the true identity of Israel as the people chosen and elected by God from among the nations. He is also describing the relationship between Himself and the disciples. Like the branches of the vine, so the disciples belong to Christ in an almost 'organic' way.
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - The readings we hear today penetrate us and draw us more closely into the new reality inaugurated by the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ.
"I am the true vine" (Jn 15: 1-8). By describing Himself with the biblical image of the vine, Jesus recalls the true identity of Israel as the people chosen and elected by God from among the nations. He is also describing the relationship between Himself and the disciples.
Like the branches of the vine, so the disciples belong to Christ in an almost 'organic' way, as Pope Benedict said in Berlin in 2011. This belonging expresses our dependence on the Lord and His emotional identification with us. The vine is one with each of its branches, and each branch extends the presence of the vine in the world.
Why is Christ the 'true vine' and why are we his 'branches'? It is because God is waiting on humanity to bear fruit, even though our sin means we are unable to offer anything other than inedible stones. The Son of God, however, was made flesh to present to the Father the fruit long awaited - the good wine of love and obedience, and to include each of us in that true love.
The words of Jesus in the readings suggest another reflection. In order to "bear much fruit" and to obtain whatever we ask him, the Lord makes a condition: He asks that we remain in Him and that "my words remain in you". What does it mean to remain in the Lord? In what sense can His words remain in us?
St John answers the first question in the second reading. "Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him. We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us," (1 Jn 3:24) We can dwell in God, abiding in Christ, because Christ has already included us in His relationship with the Father.
This link does not depend on us, but is a gift freely given once and for all in Baptism and deepened in the Eucharist. "We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us." Encouraged by this relationship with Christ, we are able to keep the commandments, not as the price we must pay in order to be loved, but as the fruit, which because He loves us, we are now able to offer.
In what sense must his words remain in us? It certainly isn't in an intellectual sense. It is not enough that His words remain in us as simply a series of concepts. The words of Christ are not reducible to concepts nor are they simple words written down so that they may be memorised.
Christ's words are much more than this. They are reality! They are what Jesus, risen and living, communicates to us daily in the Church, in those sometimes unexpected encounters in which he makes the truth and beauty of His presence noticeable. These are the words through which He reaches us and indicates to us the way forward. These words become companions to us on our journey and witness to our belonging to Christ because we have been called by Him and loved by Him.
It is this understanding of Christ's words which St Paul encountered when He met the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus. He encountered them also with Ananias and in his Baptism, and in his friendship with Barnabas, who spoke for him and calmed the fears of the Christian community towards him. Paul encountered them ultimately in the love of the same community, which in the face of the attacks by the Greek-speaking Jews sent him to safety in Tarsus.
In each of these experiences of the words of Christ, we hear again Jesus's love for us and we are strengthened in this love. Let us ask Mary who recalled all these things and who pondered them in her heart that we might be granted the gift of remembering, because every word of the Lord can change us into what He wants us to be, so that He can present us to the Father at the end of time as "holy and blameless before Him in love" (Eph. 1.4). Amen!
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Vine, Branches, communion, Vinesdresser, prayer, sacraments, Vatican, Congregation for the Clergy
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