Bearing good fruit? Need pruning?
By: By Sharon Priester
Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10
Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22:26-27,28,30,31-32; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
When I was growing up, one of my favorite places in the summer time was under the grape arbor, munching grapes and enjoying the cool, shaded hideaway. Many, many years later, I found out from my father that cultivating the grapes in the arbor took a lot of work. He told me that the vines were pruned so that the energy from the roots, vines and branches was diverted to the fruit, making the abundant harvest.
As I read this week’s Gospel, I thought about those words of my father. John’s account begins with Jesus saying, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” The Father, as the vinedresser, wishing to have an abundant harvest, prunes the branches so that they will bear more good fruit. The Father trims away, pruning our selfishness so that our love of him and others grows.
Jesus tells his disciples they cannot bear good fruit unless they abide in him. Apart from Christ, the disciples (and now us) can do nothing. Jesus also warns his followers that we face the possibility of being “thrown away as a branch and wither” if we do not remain in him. Furthermore, at the end of time, those withered branches will be gathered together, to be then thrown into the fire and burned.
If we remain faithful to God, we may ask for anything. By becoming followers of Christ, we have glorified the Father by bearing good fruit.
Saul, in the first reading, having chosen to live his life as a follower of Christ, comes to Jerusalem to join the disciples of Christ. They were afraid of him, however, because of the persecutions that had been inflicted on the Christians.
Barnabas, one of the disciples, steps up and tells the apostles how Saul had “preached boldly in the name of Jesus” and had become a faithful follower of Christ, giving glory to God, the Father. Upon hearing Barnabas’ testimony, the disciples change their minds and receive Saul into their midst, allowing him to go about freely in Jerusalem and speaking openly about Christ to the citizens.
It was not long before Saul, the new disciple, encountered Greek-speaking Jews who threatened to kill him, however. Encountering mortal danger, much like what he inflicted on others, Saul is sent to Tarsus to escape death, to follow the path chosen for him by God, to be a disciple to all nations and to teach others all that he had been commanded, giving glory to God.
In the second reading, the author begins by addressing the people as children and telling them, “Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” As children of God, innocent and trusting, believing in Christ, we are to love and show that love in our actions each and every day.
The depth of our love, and how we live that love and Christ’s commandment to love another, will reveal to others our commitment to the truth and the strength of our belief in Jesus. If we follow his commandments and live our lives in him, Jesus assures us that he will remain with us and we will know that he is with us “from the Spirit that he gave us.”
During this week, let us examine our lives and determine if we are indeed living as a branch on the vine that is Christ. Do we need some pruning? How can we change our life so that we will bear good fruit, be a disciple of Christ, ready to teach others all that Christ has commanded?
How can we share our love of God, the Father, and others so that our commitment to the truth and our belief in Christ is reflected in actions, showing others how we love as we are loved by God?
Sharon Priester is one of six regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics and serves the Bloomington and Lincoln vicariates of the Diocese of Peoria. A member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington, she holds a master’s degree in religious studies from Mundelein College in Chicago and chaired the committee that reviewed and revised the Diocesan Religious Education Guidelines.