The Vine and the Branches
When I read today’s gospel and reflected, I remember that advertisement of PLDT (or Philippine Long Distance Telephone): “PLDT, Keeping you in touch.” Jesus is like PLDT, He always keeps in touch with us.
In today’s gospel Jesus says of Himself as the true vine and we are the branches (v. 5). For the Jews, the vine figure is rich in meaning because the land of Israel is covered with numerous vineyards as here in the Philippines is covered with corn and rice. It has religious connotations too. Like for example, Isaiah speaks of the house of Israel as: “the vineyard of the Lord,” (5:7); Jeremiah says that God has planted Israel “as His choice vine,” (2:21). While the vine became a symbol of Israel as a nation, it is also used in the scriptures as a sign of degeneration. An example again is Isaiah’s prophecy that speaks of Israel as a vineyard which “yielded wild grapes,” (5:1-7); Jeremiah says that Israel has become a “degenerate and wild vine,” (2:21).
When Jesus calls Himself the ‘true vine’ and we are ‘the branches,’ He teaches us that our spiritual inheritance and spiritual nourishment comes from Him alone and not from our association with anyone or any group although they can help us. We receive our spiritual life of grace from our connection with Him. We cannot be saved unless we establish an intimate living relationship with Him. If we disconnect ourselves from Him we are spiritually worthless for He says, “without me you can do nothing,’ (v. 5). In connection with this truth, Bishop Jose Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog had written that a fragmented life like ours, must, for its wholeness be connected to something greater than the fragment. Looking at man’s physical existence, man has to connect himself to the air by breathing. Breathing the air makes him whole physically; to refuse to breathe is to disintegrate. He continued to write that man is more than physical entity; he has moral and spiritual existence that must be connected to someone greater than his total life. He needs to connect himself to the Absolute Spirit, God.
Jesus shows us an example of spiritual connection because, in His public ministry, Jesus remains connected to God which becomes the source of His strength. We find Him praying to the Father because He finds union and fidelity to His mission in prayer. Bishop Manguiran said also that praying is a necessary connection to God for spiritual wholeness and it is not optional. Praying is an obligation and a privilege; it can be done alone in private, anywhere and anytime. But praying alone is not enough; it should be done together with the community of believers, in a sacred place like the Church. It is because, for me, spiritual connection or communion does not only keep us in touch with Jesus, it should keep us in touch with one another too. And not to pray is to disconnect oneself from the power-line of God.
This connection with Him must results in great fruitfulness. For we cannot be saved by simply claiming we are Christians and then doing something contrary. Our life must bear fruit because uselessness invites disaster. How does the vine become fruitful? It is by carefully pruning the non-bearing branches in order for the vine to conserve its strength for bearing good fruit. Jesus uses this image to describe the kind of fruit and life He produces in those who are united with Him. And it is the fruit of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit,” (Rom 14:17).
“We cut ourselves off from Christ by our sins, but above all by the sin of pride. Beware of pride!”