Last week I drove from Niagara Falls back to Toronto and driving along the QEW through the wine country I could see long stretches of grape vines. They showed little signs of growth and we wondered how our severe winter would limit their new spring growth. Years ago when I studied in Italy I remember farmers pruning the vines in the early spring. The farmer cuts off those branches that are basically useless and in doing so he makes the vine and the other branches more fruitful. I remember too seeing the farmer going home at the end of the day leading a donkey loaded down with the dead branches to be used as firewood for cooking his meals.
The imagery Jesus uses in today’s gospel is so very powerful. He is the life giving, life sustaining vine and we are the branches, branches that draw our life from the vine. When a branch is snapped off the vine it is separated from it source of life it withers and dies.
This images our life as Christians. It is only when we are united to Christ, the life giving vine that we, the branches, grow in our relationship with Christ. Through his life giving grace we are enabled to live lives that image the life and love of Christ. United to Christ the vine we are able to face and cope with the challenges the come our way each and every day. It may the strength and patience we need to cope with chronic illness, our own of that of a spouse or a child. It is a reality, a pain, a weakness that won’t go away but we can live with it because we are sustained by the life force that is ours through are union with Christ. That same union, that same life giving abiding in Christ is what helps us admit to and cope with our own limitations; our impatience, our intolerance, our pettiness, our gossiping, our need to accumulate things we really do not need, our wastefulness and so many other faults that bother us at the end of the day.
Christ, the life giving vine gives the grace to start all over at the beginning of a new day. When we abide in Christ, when Christ is the source of all we do and think and say then we can bear much fruit; the fruit of love, the fruit of forgiveness, the fruit of coping with our own faults and failings, be they great or small, the fruit of being there for those who need us, the fruit of a sensibility to the sufferings of neighbours living down the street next or strangers living in refugee camps around the world. Christ, our life giving vine gives us an attitude of gratitude toward all the blessings by which our lives are blessed.
Our life giving union with Christ gives us the openness to accept and respect the dignity and the worth of every person who comes into our lives. Those signs we saw carried by the peaceful protestors in Baltimore ‘ Black Lives Matter’ can make us think about our own openness to men and women of different color, culture, faith or lifestyle, people for whom Christ died on the cross with the same love as he has for each of us. Black lives matter. All life matters.
I am the vine and you are the branches are written in Latin on the doors of our tabernacle. It is through our reception of Holy Communion that our oneness with Christ the vine is strengthened. As we continue our Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that through the life and love that is ours by our union with Christ the life giving vine we may, in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives we may all bear much fruit in and thru the lives we live, the works we do, prayers we pray and the service we give.