Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter, May 5
May We Become Transformed into the Fruitful Disciples Our Lord Is Inviting Us to Be, for the Sake of His Kingdom Here on Earth.
It was many years ago that some family members and myself had gone to a wine festival at one of the local wineries. I remember watching them take off their socks and shoes, climb inside a large open wine vat and crush the grapes with their feet.
The winery personnel would then drain the liquid from the crushed grapes within the vat and pour it into bottles and then seal them. They gave the filled bottles to us with instructions to let the wine age. I do not remember any of us drinking it, for it certainly did not look very appetizing!
But today’s Gospel Reading reminded me of that event, whereby we became a part of the process of turning the fruit of the vine into a finished product. In the simple act of crushing grapes, we became part of the process of change for those grapes – a process of transformation.
It is the same as our Heavenly Father taking each one of us and pruning away that which is undesirable, so what remains becomes purer and more fruitful, whereby we end up becoming transformed into what God desires us to be.
For we hear our Lord say to us today, “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.”
And it is through our discipleship in Jesus Christ, a discipleship to which each one of us is called, whereby you and I are united with God in such a way that we are able to work with Him in bearing fruit for the sake of building up His Kingdom here on Earth.
We become witnesses to this fact in our daily Readings from the Acts of the Apostles, wherein we see the growth of the early Christian Church through the witness given by Paul and Barnabas, and the different sufferings and trials which they endured for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
And this witness brought them full circle back to where it all began – in Jerusalem – in order to resolve a dispute which revolved around some of the tenets of the old Mosaic Law. What resulted was the Church’s First Council of Jerusalem, in which the leaders of the new Christian movement, the Apostles and presbyters (the bishops and priests of the new Church), would discuss how the mission to the Gentiles could best be realized – how the Church was to instruct and guide them in their relationship with God.
Jesus’ discourse to His disciples in today’s Gospel describes the relationship which you and I have with our Lord when He begins by saying, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” And later, Jesus states “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.”
But then our Lord reminds us of the consequences in ignoring His words, “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” – a very sobering thought for those whose hearts remain closed to God’s Truth and His invitation to remain one with Him!
It is only when we carefully reflect upon the words which Jesus is saying to each of us, especially the words “Remain in me, as I remain in you”, that we begin to understand what our Lord is truly saying – that we remain close to Him, that we be united with Him – because of the profound Love which He holds for each of us! And if we are not careful, it is so easy to miss this deep emotion which God feels for us.
When we read through this Gospel quickly, probably because we have heard it so many times before, we need to remain cautious that it does not begin to become too familiar, so that a sense of boredom or indifference can take control of our senses, and we begin to lose the beautiful analogy which our Lord is presenting to us.
Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches – He is our Master and Teacher; we are His disciples. And our Heavenly Father is the Vine Grower – for it is our Loving Father who has given us life, who has brought us to know His Son and who has given us this gift of faith which fills our hearts and which we joyfully profess!
What a beautiful picture this truly is! – a Father who loves us so much that we become His adopted sons and daughters – His children, and brothers and sisters of His Only-Begotten Son!
And Jesus, out of Divine Love, asks that we become a flowering and fruitful part of this growing Vine, a profoundly spiritual relationship – “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit…”
And this is what Paul and Barnabas wanted for the Gentile disciples who were of non-Jewish descent – who came to believe in the testimony they gave that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal Son of the Living God.
It is for this reason, and their love for those to whom they had proclaimed the Truth, that they returned to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles to hopefully resolve the conflict that others were creating. And in our future Readings, we will find that Paul and Barnabas would be successful.
Each and every one of us is called by God to be a fruitful branch. For those of us who are loving parents, we are already fulfilling this role in the raising of our children – as we watch over them, as we nurture and guide them in life and in their faith. For those of us who are in any form of ministry, be it lay ministry or clerical, we become fruitful in how we respond to God’s call and make a determined effort to fulfill all that He is asking of us.
For each of us, no matter what our vocation in life may truly be, we become fruitful branches by the way in which we place God first in our lives, for it then becomes our way of proclaiming and living the Gospel message through the witness which you and I give and the example we set.
Just as the fruit of the vine – the grapes – are crushed and the collected juices begin to ferment and are transformed into wine, so God also wishes us, as the fruit of His vine, to be transformed into children who are holy and accepting of His grace.
In Christ, we all share one life in God, despite our failings in love and despite our sinfulness at times. It is in our union with Christ wherein we find our true and lasting hope and the grace to do better – the strength to love more generously, the capacity to forgive more fully, and the ability to better understand and to be more compassionate!
Also, it is within Jesus’ words “Remain in me, as I remain in you” that each of us is invited into a deeper understanding of His Real Presence in the Eucharist. From the fruit of the vine comes wine; and the wine, through the words of Consecration at Mass, becomes His Body and Blood; and His Most Sacred Presence in the Eucharist remains in us, as we remain in Him.
It is His True Presence, His Most Precious Blood, the fruit of the vine which has been changed – transformed, which we receive each and every time we approach the Altar of Sacrifice at Holy Mass.
And it is when we receive our Lord worthily, with a truly humbled and contrite heart, and with heartfelt gratitude for God’s Presence within us, that we become nourished spiritually, and we continue to grow in our relationship of love with God; and, therein, we too become transformed.
We can discern that there is so much beauty in Jesus’ words today, and much upon which we can reflect. And today’s Gospel finishes with the verses, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” Jesus tells us, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
May you and I, in our every thought, word and deed, become transformed into the fruitful disciples our Lord is inviting us to become, for the sake of His Kingdom here on Earth – here on this side of Heaven – for it is the pathway by which we shall receive our eternal and most wondrous reward! †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “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.” (John 15:1-2)
- “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.” (John 15:5)
- “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.” (John 15:7-8)
- “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
- “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
- “Like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, for you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3)
- “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)
Prayer for the Day
“Lord Jesus, our Glorious Savior,Anonymous
We humbly give to You our lives;
do with us as Your Providence wills,
for Your greater honor and glory.
“Make our lives useful to Your service.
The only ambition we have is to humbly
and honestly fulfill Your Divine will.
We want to lift up Your Name, Jesus, not ours.
“We desire to make known the power of Your Spirit,
the Holy Spirit of Divine Truth and Love.
We want You to claim us for Yourself,
and use us according to Your Divine purpose.
“And no matter the task
which You assign to us in life,
we will be contented and full of joy,
to fulfill our purpose as disciples of Your Spirit.
“Jesus, may Your Holy Spirit dwell in us always,
guiding us to live a virtuous and fruitful life,
always pleasing to You and helpful to our neighbor,
as we help to build up the Body of Christ here on Earth.
“Fill our lives with meaning and our hearts with hope.
And when our time here is complete,
bless us with eternal life in Your Heavenly Kingdom.
Jesus, we humbly pray this in Your Most Holy Name. Amen.”