As branches, we must bear fruits

Al Cariño
May 18, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

Many of us think that living a Christian life is just a matter of following a set of God-imposed rules, more or less strict, following which qualifies us to enter a beautiful place called heaven. We look at God as a bookkeeper who has a list with two columns -- one for good works and the other for bad -- on which He makes entries based on our behavior. At the end of our life, He adds up the columns. If the good works column tallies up higher, then we go to heaven. If not, then we go to hell.

Obviously, Christian life is more than just the above. Christian life is precisely what it says: life in Jesus or, to be more exact, life in relationship with Jesus and, under the guidance of His Spirit, with the Father. This is precisely what the Parable of the Vine and Branches tells us (Jn. 15:1-8). Jesus is the true vine and His Father is the vine grower. As vine, Jesus accepts the authority of the Father over Him: "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me" (Jn 4:34). This is how Jesus achieves "fullness of life."

In turn, we obtain our own "fullness of life" only through our relationship in faith and love with Jesus and loving service for others. This happens when we believe in Jesus and show it by our love for one another. For as John says in the first reading (1 Jn. 3: 18-24), "His commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us."

Jesus makes the assertion that He is the vine during His "farewell address" after the Last Supper. He is the one Who can bear the fruit that the Father desires for us -- our redemption. And this took place when He obeyed the Father unto death, even death on the cross. For this reason, the Father raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand. From there, Jesus pours His life into us through His own Spirit, the Spirit of Life.

Jesus can do this because He has taken upon Himself the whole of humanity. He made them a part of Himself when He said, "I am the vine; you are the branches." Just as the branch receives its life from the vine, we, individually and as a member of the community of believers, receive divine life through Jesus. This is how inseparably we are united with Jesus.

"You are the branches." Jesus is the true vine because united with the Father in love, He lives for others. We become living branches when, united with Jesus in love, we love one another in turn.

"Remain in me." Cut off from Jesus, we are nothing. For by ourselves we cannot receive the gift of divine life nor pass it to others. This realization can make us humble and thus keep us away from over-estimating our worth and abilities.

The branch must bear fruit. How? By remaining in Jesus. "If a man remains in me and I in him," says Jesus, "he will bear much fruit." To remain united with Him is the starting point and goal of Christian life. It is also the basis for our bearing much fruit. Remaining in Jesus, we can bring to reality our potentials -- big or small.

What is this "fruit" that God expects of us? Fruits of love -- deeds we do out of love for God and neighbor. As John says in the second reading (1 Jn. 3:18-24), "Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." This tells us that we do not live for ourselves only. Neither do we believe alone. As in other things, we need the support and prayers of the believing community for our own faith-life.

For the vine to bear much fruit, it must be constantly pruned. Which branches are pruned? Those which, though they have much leaves, do not bear fruit. They are then gathered and burned. This should prod us to disengage ourselves from people and things that hinder our remaining in Jesus. As Jesus has said, "If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna" (Mt 18:9).

There is one test for the genuineness of our life of love: Does our life bear fruits of faith and love in others? Does it inspire others to seek Jesus because of the fruits we bear? If not, then the life of Jesus is not in us. On the other hand, when our relationship with Jesus blossoms into good relationships with others, when we are concerned about and actually help the sick, the poor, the lonely -- all those who suffer -- then we as branches make the vine thrive and bear much fruits. Love for God and for one another shown in deeds is the unmistakable sign that we are truly the disciples of Jesus.

Our "fullness of life" cycle is thus this: We have life by "remaining" in Jesus Who in turn "remains" in the Father. And for us to "remain" in Jesus, we have to bear fruits of love in the service of others.