Easter Daily Gospel Reflection - 3 April 2013

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.

The idea of conscious eternal torture is so ingrained in our Christian culture that it’s seen everywhere. Even people who don’t know much about G_d or Christ or the Sacraments “know” that “G_d sends people to hell.”

The passage before us is sometimes used in that way - as a “proof” that G_d sends people to hell. It’s said that G_d removing the branches, casting them out, and them being thrown into the fire and burned, all put to this “fact.” But we really need to push back against that.

Jesus is using poetic imagery to make a point (the “key” is that he uses the word “like”). And one rule about using poetic imagery is that it shouldn’t be taken literally or used to create doctrine or dogma. Jesus isn’t actually a vine. The Father-Mother isn’t actually a vineyard keeper. And people aren’t actually branches. Jesus is talking about relationships. The imagery is about how those relationships look - both healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships.

The key to the healthy relationship is summed up in the word “remain” (or “abide” found in other translations - but when I hear “abide,” I think of The Big Lebowski). Jesus uses that world eleven times in this short passage:

“remain in me”
“remain in you”
“remain in the vine [Jesus]”
“remain in me”
“remain in me”
“remain in me”
“remain in me”
“remain in you”
“remain in my love”
“remain in my love”
“remain in [G_d’s] love”

Just as a branch of a vine can’t grow, mature, and produce fruit without being attached to the vine, we can’t grow, mature, or produce fruit without being attached to Jesus. That’s the key. But how do we do that?

Jesus said that we can “remain” in him by keeping his commandments. His commandments can be summed up to love they way he loves. When we love like Jesus loves, we begin to notice things in our lives that need to be “pruned” - things that prevent us from being present, self-giving, and moving forward. With the Love of Christ in our lives, we start the slow process of evolving to be more like Christ. As St. Paul wrote:

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus...

That is what it looks like to be in a healthy relationship with Jesus. To have the Love of Christ ruling in our hearts and lives. It spills out into our relationship with those around us and all of creation.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC


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