Supernatural Life

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 everyone 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.”
(John 15:1-8)

Scripture Study

The metaphor of the vine underscores Jesus’ union with the disciples and their absolute dependency on him for life and growth. It assumes that because the vinedresser (the Father) seeks an abundant harvest, he trims back the vine stock (Jesus) to rid it of fruitless branches (apostates) and to invigorate the other branches (disciples) to become even more fruitful. ● The delivery of this sermon during the Last Supper gives it a sacramental coloring. Note how the invitation to “abide” in Christ (15:4–5) picks up a theme from the Bread of Life discourse (6:56) and how the Synoptic Gospels make an explicit link between the “fruit of the vine” and the eucharistic meal (Mt 26:29; Mk 14:25; Lk 22:18) (CCC 787).

15:2 he prunes: The Father must trim away our selfishness to increase our growth in love. Pruning probably refers to the trials and fatherly discipline we experience in this life (Heb 12:5–11; Jas 1:2–4; 1 Pet 1:6–7).

15:5 bears much fruit: The fruits of righteousness are borne in us by the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23; CCC 737). Without this life-giving sap, which flows into the branches through the vine, we can do absolutely nothing to please the Father or move closer to salvation (CCC 308, 2074).

15:6 thrown into the fire: Damnation awaits every branch that withers away from Christ and becomes worthless (Mt 3:10; Heb 6:4–8). ● Ezekiel similarly described the residents of Jerusalem as vine branches that failed to yield fruit and so became fuel for the fires of divine judgment (Ezek 15:1–8). Vines, the prophet reasoned, are useless to the craftsman as wood and thus have no value apart from the grapes they bear.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel passage today is from the beautiful, evocative, and challenging fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus declares that he is the vine and we are the branches. He is the power and energy source in which we live. This image is closely related to Paul’s metaphor of the body of Christ.

The point is that we live in him and he in us. Jesus is the source of supernatural life in us, and without him, we would have none of it. If, therefore, you are separated from the vine, you will die spiritually, you will stop living a supernatural life. What does this look like concretely, to be attached to the vine? It means a steady immersion in the prayer of the Church. It means steady communion with God, speaking to him on a regular basis. It means an immersion in the Scriptures, soaking in the truth of the Bible. It means engaging in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

And, of course, it means you must participate in the sacraments—especially confession and the Eucharist. By the sacraments, we stay close to the Christ who forgives our sins and who enlivens our spirits.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.