Today’s Gospel passage forms part of Jesus’ discourse during the Last Supper. In John’s Gospel, during the Last Supper, Jesus washes the apostles’ feet, he speaks about Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. Jesus also promises the apostles that he would send the Holy Spirit and he speaks about the need to remain in him like the branches are part of the vine. This is in fact the part which will be read today.
The image of the vine dates back from the Old Testament, where the People of Israel were likened to the vineyard and God as the vine grower (Psalm 80,9-10). One of John’s aims, was to show through his writings, that Jesus fulfilled God’s promises to the People of Israel. Jesus wants the apostles to understand and to believe that after his death, he will not leave them on their own. Through this imagery of the vine and the branches, Jesus shows that he will not only be close to them but that he will be a main part of their life. This is the sort of intimacy Jesus wants to have with us. Jesus wanted to have this type of relationship with the apostles, so that they could continue the work that he had started. If this relationship was broken, the apostles could not continue on his footsteps. Today, this work is being sustained by us and through us.
By using this imagery, Jesus also shows us that we are part of a greater community. The vine has various branches. Jesus is not only part of me but also part of the others too. This is further exemplified in St Paul’s writings, when he speaks about the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12, 27). In the same way that we care for the whole of our body, we need to care for others, without any preferences. We are all part of the same body. We need to see others in the same way Jesus sees them, our behaviour towards them, needs to be the same as that of Jesus, we are to help, love and forgive them. This shows us that it is difficult for us to achieve all this on our own. We need the help of the Holy Spirit, to live as worthy parts of the Body of Christ.
In fact, prior to today’s passage, Jesus promises the help of the Holy Spirit. He knows that on our own, we will find it very difficult. The Holy Spirt who gives us the courage, the strength, will and commitment, to live as true Christians.
What is Jesus expecting from us? First and foremost, Jesus wants us to get to know him. We build our relationship with Jesus through scripture, prayer and particularly through the Eucharist through which we are united with Jesus in a special way. The more we get to know Jesus, the more the wish to do as he wills, is instilled in us. When we do what Jesus wants, we will be producing the fruit Jesus is referring to, today.
In this passage, Jesus makes us also aware of what happens when we are lukewarm and indifferent, when we do not do our best to follow him. Jesus says that he is the “true vine”. Therefore, this means that there are other vines, which are not true. It is of paramount importance to see to which vine we are attached. What could these other vines be? What is our major priority in life? Our answer to this will show us to which vine we are attached. To be part of the true vine, we need to do all things for the glory of God. This comes to be when we always try to make the right choices.