As part of spiritual direction, we went on a three-day retreat to discern how the Holy Spirit wants to use our marriage to be a blessing to others. We were directed to study the Sunday Gospel readings during the Easter Season as they focus on different aspects of the disciples being sent out on mission. The Gospel reading for today, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, is from John, Chapter 15, the “I AM the Vine” discourse of Jesus to His disciples at the Last Supper.
Jesus the True Vine
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. 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. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:1-8
We were astonished to see that this was the reading for the Sunday at the end of our retreat. It spoke powerfully to the goal of our retreat: How to be fruitful in our marriage for the good of others. We were also amazed to learn that our hermitage at the retreat center was located on the shore of Vineyard Lake. Coincidence? We think not! “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (Jn 15:8). God repeatedly spoke to us of His desire that we are to produce abundant fruit for His glory through our marriage and the “Calling Couples to Christ” Apostolate.
The primary meaning of this passage is union with Jesus Christ. He is the source of fruit produced in our lives for He says, “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Jesus’ promise of abundant life was not just for His disciples but is also for us today through the power of the Holy Spirit. Because the Father has raised Jesus from the dead; this Word of God that became flesh among us, now continues to dwell among us. In the imagery of the vine, His presence is seen as abiding, lasting, and permanent. To hear this promise is to pause and reflect on the possibilities of new life that Jesus wants to give us in the present.
In this discourse, Jesus twice promises “I am the vine” (v. 1 and 5). In that promise, something happens. There is an event in which we become something new – we are transformed by a new reality in which we are empowered and commissioned as disciples. That reality is signaled in several aspects of Jesus’ promise:
- “I am the true vine” (Jn 15:1).
This statement has to do with Jesus’ relationship with the Father and what it reveals about the Father’s love.
- “You are the branches” (Jn 15:5).
An invitation, a summons, and a promise that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing.
- “Bear fruit / bear much fruit” (Five times in Jn 15:2, 4, 5, 8).
Highlights a relationship of purpose and power; we are called to be up and doing.
- “Whatever you will” (Jn 15:7).
We are invited into the abiding relationship in which the vine and branches are held together by the One whose glory is seen in being lifted up on the cross for us and in a Father, who is also glorified when those who abide in that Son are revealed in the faithful who are bearing fruit in service to the world.
Jesus is the bearer of life, bearing fruit through us His disciples. All Christians are called to bear life-giving fruit. Husbands and wives in particular bear fruit when they live marriage according to God’s plan. It is through our fruitfulness that the world will encounter Jesus Christ.
You have been called to bear much fruit for the kingdom of God. Remain in Christ so that you may you glorify God through your acts of love.
Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Lo, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. Psalm 128:1-4
 Working Preacher, Commentary on John 15:1-8, internet: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1290 (accessed April 27, 2018).