Fr Paul Gooley reads from the Gospel of John (15: 1-8) in which Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more’.

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 the 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.

Fr Paul invites us to reflect on today’s Gospel Lesson – we must always be attached the vine, to Christ himself, it is Christ alone who gives life to us and the Church.