Sybil 1997

Gospel text

John 15: 1-8

1 I am the authentic vine, and my Father is the wine grower. 2 Any branch of my vine that does not bear fruit, he takes it away, and any branch that bears it, he prunes it so that it bears even more. 3 Already you are pruned by the word that I shared with you. 4. Keep your bond with me, as I keep my bond with you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself if it does not remain connected to the vine, neither can you if you do not remain connected to me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains connected to me and to whom I remain connected, this one gives a lot of fruit, because without me you can do nothing. 6 And if someone does not remain bound to me, one throws him away as we do with the branch which then dries up, then one picks it up and throws it into the fire where it is consumed. 7 If you keep your bond with me and my word dwells in you, you can ask what you want and it will happen. 8 What reveals my father's extraordinary quality of being is that you bear a great deal of fruit and become my disciples.

If we accept that life prunes us, we bear fruit

Gospel commentary - Homily

Being fruitful by self-emptying

There was a very talented broker who prospered in his trading. But he worked very hard to achieve his goals. When he was traveling by train or plane, he was seen with his laptop or cell phone looking up various information or giving orders. It was an exciting job for him which occupied him seven days a week. For the agency which had hired him and for his clients, he was the most fruitful man there was. The only divergent note came from his wife and children who, in fact, never saw him. And what had to happen happened: his wife filed for divorce and his children no longer called him papa, but "sir". The successful broker had not been a successful husband and father.

How to be fruitful, or bear fruit? This is the question posed by the narrative of the Gospel of John on this Sunday. We must be careful not to let ourselves be distracted by the images of the vine and the branches as well as that of Christ in us and of us in Christ who lulls us by their beauty and their soft intimacy, forgetting the question: what does it mean to be connected or bonded to Jesus?

Jesus, I never saw him. You don't either, unless you're an "enlightened one". I have access to him through the Gospel narratives insofar as I meditate on them regularly. I also have access to him through people who try to permeate themselves with his thinking and his life. I have access to him through all this intergenerational effort to understand his vision of things and live it. I also have access to him by this mysterious force inside me, which on certain days bears the name "thirst for love", on other days the name "thirst for truth". Just as it takes in the relationship of the couple, if it wants to endure, times of discussions and times of silence, times of action and times of intimacy, so it is for who wants that his relationship with Jesus endures. Is this enough to be successful? It seems not.

"Any branch that gives fruit, my Father prunes it so that it will give even more". What is this pruning? Personally, I admit, I hate pruning. In my backyard, I have a rose garden, a dozen plants of tea hybrids. When autumn comes, you only need to keep about 30 cm of the plant, in order to cover it with peat moss and protect it from winter. I am not resigned to cutting these beautiful branches full of flowers and new shoots. Most of the time, my spouse must do it. However, it is the essential condition for having a healthy rose garden in the spring. Have you seen a vine in winter? 90% of the branches were cut. But what exactly is a life that is pruned?

For a few years my freedom and my intimacy have been somewhat cut off. My daughter and her husband live with us: she is still a student and, given their limited financial resources, we agreed to help them in this way. Ourselves, having agreed to form a couple, we agreed to be pruned with part of our freedom, knowing that this was the condition for bearing an abundant fruit. When we share our human and financial resources, isn't that a form of pruning? By leaving his family life in Nazareth, by accepting to have his reputation destroyed by the religious authorities, by loving at the price of his life, Jesus was continuously pruned. We talk about the fruit of his resurrection, but this fruit was born from this pruning.

Accepting pruning, accepting to lose what is in itself a beautiful thing, is so difficult that we need others. To know that in the end there is an overabundant fruit is not enough. It takes the strength of love, it takes an environment that carries us. "Without me you can do nothing," says Jesus. Doesn't the tragedy that struck recentlythe city of Toronto where a stray bullet in an exchange of gunshots by a street gang killed an innocent girl not illustrate the impact of an environment, when it is vitiated? Are our Christian communities real and solid enough to help us in this pruning work?

One of the most extraordinary fruits of this pruning work is that our heart begins to vibrate at the same rate as that of Jesus, so as to desire what he desires, just as it happens in a life of couple. Then, whatever we ask, God gives it.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, January 2006