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. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (John 15:1-10).
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself (Philippians 3:20-21).
I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father (John 15:15).
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another (Colossians 3:12-13).
But we ought to give thanks to God for you always, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Ah, the parable of the vine and the branches! Who doesn’t derive some sense of comfort from Jesus’ words in this passage? Who doesn’t get a feeling of reassurance when they read that Jesus invites them to remain in him?
But there is another side to these verses that can sound ominous: Jesus wants to prune us as Catholic men. He wants to strip away those parts of our lives that do not bear fruit for him. This can be a frightening thought, especially when we stop to consider how many times we say “no” to the Lord in the course of a week, or even a day.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry! Remember: Jesus told his disciples, and he tells you today: “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you” (John 15:3). Washed clean in the waters of baptism, we are already forgiven. We are already justified. We are already citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20)! All that remains is for us to embrace our citizenship more fully and ask Jesus to change us and reign over more and more areas in our hearts (Philippians 3:21).
Think of the disciples. They had been with Jesus for three whole years, and still they needed some pruning. Matthew the tax collector had already given up his cheating ways. Mary Magdalene had already been delivered of seven demons. And James and John had already had to deal with their desire to be given special seats in Jesus’ kingdom.
No matter what had already been pruned from these disciples’ lives, there was still more to come. Peter would still deny knowing the Lord three times. All the disciples would run away at Jesus’ arrest. And Thomas would refuse to believe his brothers and sisters that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Jesus knew all this was going to happen, and still he entrusted his church to these fallible men and women. And he entrusts it today not just to those in the religious life, but to you and I as well. So don’t worry about the pruning that is still to come. Just remember that Jesus always welcomes you as a beloved son of his Father (Ephesians 5:1 and Colossians 3:12) and as his friend (John 15:15). He believes in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. He has already accepted you into his kingdom. All he wants to do now is prune you and make you more and more fruitful!
“Jesus, I am so grateful for your love and mercy. I am willing to be pruned so that I can be more and more like you. Help me to remain in you so that I can bear fruit for your kingdom.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
[Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
- The article says that “Jesus wants to prune us. He wants to strip away those parts of our lives that do not bear fruit for him.” What is your reaction to these words? Is it one of hope or fear, or a little bit of both? Why?
- The article goes on to say that “We are already citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20)! All that remains is for us to embrace our citizenship more fully and ask Jesus to change us and reign over more and more areas in our hearts (Philippians 3:21).” What are some obstacles in your life that get in the way of Jesus changing you and reigning “over more and more areas” of your life?
- We can see in the lives of the apostles that Jesus’ pruning is a lifetime process. What steps can you take to embrace the pruning that even now is taking place in your life?
- The article ends with these words: “Just remember that Jesus always welcomes you as a beloved son of his Father (Ephesians 5:1 and Colossians 3:12) and as his friend (John 15:15). He believes in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. He has already accepted you into his kingdom. All he wants to do now is prune you and make you more and more fruitful!” Do you see yourself as a beloved son of your heavenly Father and a friend of Jesus? Why or why not? Why is it important to have this view of ourselves if we are to be “more and more fruitful”?
- Take some time now to pray for the grace to be pruned by the Lord, become more like him, and bear much fruit for his kingdom. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.