Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of John (15: 1-8) in which Jesus says to his disciples “Make your home in me as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself but must remain part of the vine. Neither can you unless you remain in me”.
Fr Paul says the vine had long been a beloved symbol of Israel. It was used by Isaiah. It was used by Ezekiel. It was used by Jesus in the parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Mark 12.1-12) to shame the irresponsible current leaders of Israel.
Now, in this Last Supper discourse, on the way to Gethsemane it acquires a new dimension, the pain of pruning. However, the suffering of Jesus is not the principal point here: disciples of Jesus must be prepared to bear the pain of pruning.
The image is a powerful one. To an uninstructed onlooker the wretched, seemingly lifeless twigs left on the vines appear totally unable to bloom in a few months into a rich harvest of grapes. The most powerful of all the aspects of the symbol is the sap pulsing through those apparently dead branches. There is all the difference in the world between those pruned branches and the dead twigs scattered on the ground, that we hear will be gathered up and burnt.
In closing, Fr Paul shares today’s Gospel Lesson – we must always be attached the vine, to Christ himself, it is Christ alone who gives us life and gives life to the Church.