Opening Our Hearts to Receive the Holy Spirit

Living in the Communion of Divine Love

Jesus Christ: Our Cornerstone

Invitation to the Schools of Missionary Discipleship

Jesus Invites Us To Share In The Good News

Jesus’ Mercy Endures Forever

Msgr. Joseph Prior

The production of fine wine starts not with the grapes but the vine and it takes some time. Once a shoot is planted, the first year it will grow fast but not produce any fruit. At the end of the season the grower will trim back the vines. The next year goes by, once again without any fruit. The vines are cut back. Then the third year, now clusters of grapes start to form. This fruit will not be used for wine as the quality is not quite there yet. It will be at the end of the fourth year that the fruit will be such that it can be used to produce wine. Then another whole process starts and that takes seven to eight years, sometimes even longer before the wine is ready to drink.

The wine is made from the fruit of the vine, the grapes. For that fruit to be of optimal quality, it needs to be formed and nourished on the vine. Jesus uses this image in today’s gospel. Perhaps the most memorable words being “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He is the vine through which everything we, the branches, need to live and to bear fruit. It is a wonderful image, so easy to relate to. Its so obvious that if the branch is cut off it withers and dies, it cannot live on its own. If the branches’ connection to the vine is damage or torn, the branch will suffer. But if the connection is strong, fruit will start to appear on that branch. The fruits are varied: kindness, generosity, service, love, mercy, honesty, integrity, courage and wisdom, the list could go on and on. This is the abundant life that channels into us from Christ Jesus, when we remain united with Him. And so Jesus says: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

One of the ways in which we “remain on the vine” is by keeping the Lord’s commandments. Jesus gave a wealth of teaching on how to live our lives (both in His word and deed). The gospels contain many of these teachings and the Church continues to elaborate and illustrate these teachings.

Saint John speaks of this in the passage which serves as the second reading for today’s liturgy, coming from his first letter. He urges, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” He summarizes the God’s commandment in this away, “we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.”

This is how we remain on the vine. The first element of this command is faith. Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandment, quotes Deuteronomy and says, “You should love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” then adds “you should love your neighbor as yourself.”

Believing in Jesus as the Son of God, the One sent from the Father to lead us to Him, is one aspect of loving God. Loving God entails belief. Jesus repeatedly invites and calls those whom He encounters to this faith, faith in Him. Saint John reflects this in his encouragement.

The second command is that love of which Jesus speaks in similar words. Love is all embracing. It touches every aspect of our lives. In love we empty ourselves for others, in in this we are filled with Him who loves us. In the words of Saint John, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them…”

The first reading for today’s Mass comes from Acts of the Apostles. It recalls the early days of the ministry of Saul, whose name will become Paul. Luke, author of Acts, notes that the disciples in Jerusalem were “all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.” They were incredulous because of the life Paul led before he put His faith in Christ Jesus. Recall when he is first introduced in Acts he was persecuting the Christians, even so much as participating in the stoning of Saint Stephen.

When Jesus appears to him, He says, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” Saul eventually comes to believe and is baptized. In this he is united with Christ as the branch is united to the vine. The fruit that flows from Jesus, through Paul into the world is abundant. We are still reaping the benefits today. Paul comes to understand that Jesus is the Way to the God in whom “we live and move and find our being.” (Acts 17:27) It is He who will produce much fruit in us.

Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. His image beautifully expressed the life of love we share together – with Him and with each other. Belief in He who loves us strengthens us to love one another.

In this life of love, the fruit produced will be abundant and rich.


Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

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