Fruitful Discipleship

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Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

John 15:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, prune my heart with your holy word. Bless me as I hear and reflect on your parable. May your word pierce my heart like a sharp blade and move me to loving action as your disciple.
Encountering Christ:

  1. Discipleship Instructions: Notice that this parable is addressed to Jesus’s disciples. These are instructions for fruitful discipleship. God has chosen us, his disciples today, to bear fruit. Jesus told his disciples, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (John 15:16). “Fruit that will remain” means spiritual fruits, such as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and actions that express the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Without prayer, worship, and Scripture reading, it is impossible to bear this kind of fruit. Jesus reminds us that we are totally dependent on remaining close to him in order to have a fruitful life: “Without me you can do nothing.” Additionally, remaining in Christ is a lifelong process. Christian disciples are not “born again,” once and done, but are constantly being filled with divine life by being connected to the life and love of the Holy Trinity each and every day.
  2. The Word Prunes: Pruning is an essential preparation for growing fruit. Imagine a grapevine that is overgrown with old or broken branches. Without pruning, it grows wild and only tiny grapes appear on the branches that do produce. God “prunes” his disciples through his word. God disciplines us when we read and reflect on his word daily. Notice how closely the word “discipline” is to “disciple.” To be a disciple is to be obedient. In Scripture, God reinforces our good actions and habits and patiently persuades us from our sinful actions and habits. St. Paul teaches us that “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Imagine this sharp, two-edged sword gently pruning away the unfruitful parts of your life. We can ask ourselves if there is anything that is preventing us from bearing fruit. Do we spend too much time on social media, scrolling through the news, connected to our smartphones, or watching television? Do we have other habits that keep us from loving others well, such as not getting enough sleep so we are grumpy and disagreeable?
  3. God’s Love Grows Fruit: God’s love is the energy for discipleship. It produces the fruit attached to the vine. The love of God comes through Christ the Vine and enters into our hearts, which we then pour out for others. You might think of the Holy Spirit as the essence of God’s love. Consider this passage in conjunction with the parable of the vine: “…the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Imagine the love of God being poured into the Holy Spirit, like a river of living water (John 7:37) flowing through Christ the Vine and into our hearts (the branches), which are attached to Christ’s. This is how the love of God flows to us. It is the life and love of the Holy Trinity itself flowing into our hearts. How can we not love and serve God with confidence? The last line of the parable gives it its meaning: “This I command you, love one another” (John 15:17). We can only love others if we have the love of God flowing to us through Christ: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Conversing with Christ: Jesus, your Sacred Heart is the true vine, and my human heart is a branch. Send your Holy Spirit of living water to quench my heart with your love. Your love that is like fire and passionate is also like water, refreshing and life-sustaining. Without earthly water I would die. Without living water, I would also perish. Fill me with your love and help me pour it out to others in fruitful discipleship.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I ask you to prune me by gently taking away the things that are hindering me from bearing everlasting fruit for you.
For Further Reflection: Read more about how discipleship and this parable in this homily:
“Vine and Branches Is Discipleship.”
Written by Carey Boyzuck.

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