The image is simple but powerfully expressive. Jesus is «the true vine», full of life; the disciples are «the branches» who live off of the sap that comes from Jesus; the Father is the «vine dresser» who personally takes care of the vineyard so that it gives abundant fruit. The only important thing is that we go about bringing to reality God’s project of a more human and more happy world for all.
The image focuses on where the problem lies. There are dry branches through whom the sap of Jesus doesn’t circulate: disciples who don’t bear fruit because the Spirit of the Resurrected One doesn’t flow through their veins; Christian communities who languish, unconnected to Jesus’ person.
That’s why such an intense affirmation is made: «the branch can’t bear fruit if it doesn’t remain on the vine»: the lives of the disciples are sterile «if they don’t remain» in Jesus. His words are categorical: «without me you can do nothing». Don’t we find revealed here the true root of the crisis in our Christianity, the internal factor that shakes our foundations like no other?
The way many Christians live their religion, without a vital union with Jesus Christ, won’t last for long: it will end up reduced to out of touch «folklore» that brings no one the Good News of the Gospel. The Church can’t bring her mission to completion in our world today if we who call ourselves Christians aren’t converted into disciples of Jesus, animated by his spirit and his passion for a more human world.
To be Christian today demands a vital experience of Jesus Christ, an interior knowing of his person and a passion for his project –something not required by practitioners of a society of Christiandom. If we don’t learn how to live out of a more immediate and passionate contact with Jesus, the decadence of our Christianity will be changed into a mortal sickness.
We Christians today go about worried and distracted by all kinds of questions. It can’t be any other way. But we shouldn’t forget what’s essential. We are all «branches». Only Jesus is «the true vine». What’s decisive at this time is «to remain in him»: give our whole attention to the Gospel; nourish our groups, networks, communities and parishes with the living contact with him; don’t wander away from his project.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf