While I was praying this week with this beautiful imagery of the vine and the branches, I contemplated the notion of remaining in Jesus and questioning how we remain in Jesus.
While I was praying, it occurred to me that I really didn’t have much experience with vines. I was trying to think back on my vine history, and I never had vines growing at home. I thought I would explore YouTube to see what vines look like. I found a couple of amazing, time-elapsed videos.
They start to grow in the spring and continue growing all through summer and into fall. After fall, they are cut back. The vines grow again until the next spring. I am going to go through visual imagery of the vine and branch.
What is amazing is that in the spring the vine looks like a thick trunk. It is in an L-shaped form, so all the branches can grow lushly. It starts off in the spring looking totally dead. It is a neat thing. As spring comes, tiny little buds begin to blossom out of the dead wood.
They come out of the old part of the wood where branches were cut off. The flowers begin to explode in time lapse. They begin to explode and suddenly, from this dead, brown wood, come these green branches. These green branches begin to lusciously grow up and down and at all different angles.
What else is interesting is you can witness through time lapse (as the sun moves quickly through the days) that there are branches falling off the vine to the ground. You see them wither and die, and they get cleared away. It is a profound image. Vines continue to grow and get greener. The branches get bigger and bigger, and there are more and more flowers. Suddenly, these grapes appear all over the branches. It is breathtaking to watch the time lapse of this.
A couple of things occurred to me as I was watching.
First, the vine is so big, thick and strong, but it starts off appearing to be dead. It reminded me of the wood of the cross. It reminded me of what we experience on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Passion; this whole notion of beginning with death.
Out of that death these little buds begin to blossom. We hear in the gospel that we have already been pruned. The good news is you weren’t like branches that were dead and cut away. You have already been pruned. You are a part of this new growth that is happening in the church, part of the new life.
That is what we are celebrating this Easter season, especially the people who came into the faith. The people who were baptized and became fully initiated. They are part of this new growth. Suddenly life begins to grow like wild, green is coming out going everywhere, and it is all growing from the vine. The branches are growing prolifically from the vine, and they explode in all different directions.
The second realization is that it demonstrates how Jesus works in the church. Sometimes we go through periods in the church when the church seems dead, the diocese seems dead and parishes seem dead. For a while, locations may seem dead. Right now, in the diocese of Cleveland, locations are expanding. Right now, nine new men were made deacons and priests this year. I look at it as the explosion of life coming forth.
Let’s think about ourselves. We are in the fifth Sunday of Easter. There is probably growth in our lives right now. There is a new explosion of growth this Easter season. We died in many ways during Lent and Good Friday. We rose on Easter, and we are part of these branches growing so beautifully from the vine.
The final thing I notice is it takes a little bit of time for the grapes to come. It takes a whole season for the grapes to appear. There is this constant growth of green, green, green, then flowers, flowers, flowers. Then it gets to its full height, and then suddenly, these grapes pop out. It is amazing.
Sometimes in our faith there is that big time of growth. Sometimes we are waiting for that moment when the Holy Spirit will explode out of us. You are already pruned. You are already one of the vines attached to the branches growing prolifically.
I want you to think of the reality of that.
For those of us who come to Mass every Sunday and pray every day with the word of God, we are connected to Him. We are growing. Our spiritual life is flourishing right now. Our fruits are going to explode more than we can imagine. It is so important to continue to remain in His word. I love the line at the end: “If you remain in me and I in you.” If we stay connected to Him, the vine, we can ask for anything we want, and it will be given to us.
That means we can ask for any miracle we want in our lives right now – anything that we want. If we are connected to Jesus, it is going to be granted to us. Maybe there is something we have been hoping for for a while. Maybe there is a part of us that feels bad, a part of us that is waiting to explode with new life.
I invite you to ask Him. Ask Him from the bottom of our hearts and say, “Lord, I am connected to you. I am asking this in your name. You promised me that anything I ask you would provide.” Be amazed at the wonderful fruit that begins to explode. The great thing is that Jesus said, “By this will my Father be glorified.”
When that fruit explodes in our lives and, suddenly, we are doing everything God wants us to be doing, the grace will pour out into our lives. God’s glory is going to be shown. Suddenly other people are going to see Christ working in us.
I invite you to remain on the vine, realize we have been pruned, realize our lives are flourishing right now, and realize that every time we receive the Eucharist, He remains in us.
Every time we pray during the week, we will remain in Him; and, ultimately, the Father delights in the fruits that we will bear.