(Generated Transcript from Vigil Mass)
Whenever we read any passage in Scripture, but especially one of the Gospels, an important thing is to know: Where are we in the story? What’s happening? Here, we’re essentially in the middle of this long section of the Last Supper. The final discourse that Jesus gives to his disciples begins in Chapter 13 and continues through Chapter 17. So here in John 15 we’re right in the middle of this whole section.
Jesus knows that his time is now very limited. All of the events that he’s being predicting and preparing for over the three years of his public ministry coming to him, and he needs to give these final instructions to his disciples when he can. Of course, he knows that there will be the school that the disciples would be given in the days after the resurrection. But they don’t know that!
He was pouring out in himself and calling them into this intimacy of life. This schooling back to what is essential. What is the thing that they need to hold onto, that they’re able to then share with others.
The vine: is another of those images that is commonly found across the pages of the Hebrew scriptures. It’s a great sign of the fruitfulness of the people and when you read, for example, Psalm 80, or Isaiah 5, you see those images of Israel itself, as the vine. Planted so tenderly by the little vine taken from Egypt, and planted in the promised land. Planted in the garden to be that sign of what God originally intended. Way back in the garden of Eden. What God originally intended for people to be very bearers of God’s image – to be fruitful and multiply – to be the instruments of God’s grace and God’s life present in the world. But as the Psalm and Isaiah says Israel wasn’t very fruitful.
It wasn’t well tended. The walls were broken down, ravaging monsters came into to devour the Vine itself. And so Jesus is not just saying that you are the Vine, but he’s calling himself first as being the true Israel. He is the one that is the manifestation; the very sense of when you look at Jesus, you’re able to know the Father and I want to know how God originally intended us to be.
Because Jesus is the perfection of humanity. He is everything that every single one of us in our best moments wanted to be and longed to be to be like God just to be good, not to have to struggle all the time with our lesser desires.
All of our simple desires, all those things that. Just muck things up and get in the way. Get in the road of our desire to follow, grow to be his instruments, to be his images in the way. So he’s giving us this image of how we can indeed be what we originally intended to be.
What we long to be to be proper, to be appropriate to be called out in love with God, and 1st is this image of. Abiding in the second section will talk about the love that is necessary, and then he will talk about the reality that there will be hate that will be thrown at us.
Now I’m not a gardener. I’ve never lived anywhere very long enough to have time to spend cultivating in the garden. But when I was growing up on the farm, we had some apple trees and then eventually some other fruit trees as well. And I remember every year, you know we had to go out that and help him to prune those trees. I remember one year we didn’t and that particular year, the trees looked really good.
There was so much bigger than they normally are. But the fruit that was produced that year was just so small and so pathetic in comparison to what normally it would. Because normally these trees will produce these most magnificent huge apples that were so juicy and full of life. Like I just would always wait for that period around this time of the year when the apples would be ripe and we’d be able just to have the first fruit. All those trees and so That sense of why do we need to prune? Well you need to get rid of all of those extra branches. I mean the tree will just keep growing and growing and growing, but it won’t be about producing the best of the fruit. It will be ultimately unproductive.
So we pruned back. Those trees were pruned back. Those rose bushes in order to there will be just those few but spectacular. So also we’ve the vines and vines would just grow everywhere in demo in place, but they eventually grow even on top of themselves and cut off the light from getting through to allow that line to produce the most succulent and beautiful fruit. God wanting the same for us, he’s wanting to do that.
Now, it doesn’t seem like a very beautiful and nice image to be told there will be periods of our lives when we need to be pruned. There will be times in our lives when God will need to come in and cut away those things that are getting in the road. Cutting away those things that are preventing us from living that fruitful and productive life. But one of the gifts of pruning. Is you can’t do it from a distance. It’s the only way we can prune a vine or bush is getting there nice and close. You know when God is doing that work bringing us, he’s right there so close to us, present among us with us as he cuts are weighing those parts of our lives that might be productive.
He’s always gentle. He’s always guiding us, nurturing us, and he’s not there just as this savage taskmaster. It’s as a Craftsman: carefully, tenderly cutting away those things that we have surrendered to you. But we’ve opened up. To our God. God is calling us into this life.
Jesus says that there are these two things that are essential to things that are necessary for us to grow that abundant. The first is we need to be part of the vine. We can’t be cut off.
We can’t be separated from the rest of the line and we need to do that by being part of the community by being united with one another by supporting each other by encouraging each other by allowing all of us together to grow closer to God.
So the second is also that essential need for us individually to pray for us individually to spend that time simply resting in the presence of our God.
But there is this intimacy and this tenderness that we are invited into.
So for us you know just to take that time to be present each day to the ever-present God he is here he is among us.
But sometimes we forget that, and sometimes we forget that we have to do our part in that by making ourselves present to God.
There’s a little saying that I was told when I was doing a retreat a couple of years ago, and this is often the case with me. I kind of just started saying it didn’t really strike too much of a chord with me, so I then kind of composed a little mantra to go with it, and since then I found it really helpful just to begin prayer just to to send to myself to focus myself in order to allow myself into that presence and the mantra is: Ever present God here with us now; help me to be here with you.
Ever present God.
Here with me now.
Help me to be.
Here with you.
The powerful thing about that is it reminds us that God is always here.
God is always present among us, but we need to let that happen.
We need to be present to God.
He’s present to us, but so often we’re so busy, so caught up.
So distracted that we don’t make that space to be present to God.
Ever present God.
Here with me now.
Help me to be.
Here with you.