Remain in me, as I remain in you. (John 15:4)
What do you do when you need to recover from a head cold? You get extra rest, drink more fluids, and take vitamins. But these remedies aren’t directly making you better. They can facilitate the process, but in the end, it’s your own immune system that fights off the sickness, and that process isn’t completely under your control.
Spiritual growth is a little like getting over a cold: our efforts are only aids to our growth. The real growth comes from God. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus explains this by saying that he is the vine, and we are the branches. Because we’re just branches, we can’t produce fruit on our own. Only as we are attached to the vine, receiving its vitality, are we fruitful.
Sometimes we get these roles confused. We can begin to think that we are the active agent in spiritual growth. “God made the world,” we think, “He sent Jesus to redeem us; now it’s up to me.” While it may sound noble, this approach can lead us to be disconnected from the Lord. And that will render us fruitless.
This passage shows us how important it is that we try to stay connected to Jesus. None of us wants to be fruitless. None of us wants to wither and die and fall off of the vine! We want to be useful to the Lord, don’t we? We want to be filled with his vitality, his energy, and his wisdom.
This is why it’s important to be faithful to daily prayer, Scripture reading, and the sacraments. It’s also why we need to stay connected with fellow Christians and why we need to serve as he served. These things on their own won’t bring spiritual growth, but they will keep us connected to the life-giving vine.
All we have to do is try our best to stay close to Jesus. Abiding in his presence is nothing more than trying to think and act the way we think Jesus would want us to in our day. If we can do just that, we will be giving his Spirit the freedom to shape us and change us. We will become more fruitful!
“Thank you, Jesus, for promising to make me fruitful. Help me, Lord, to stay connected to you.”
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne