[5th Sunday of Easter, Year B, May 3, 2015 / Acts 9:26-31 / Ps 22:26-27, 28+30, 31-32 / 1 John 3:18-24 / John 15:1-8]
In the Philippines there are many types of fruit: jackfruit, starfruit, bananas, melons, coconut and of course delicious pineapples and mangoes. In a document of Vatican II, the Church exhorts all the Christian faithful “to bear fruit in charity for the life of the world” (Optatamtotiusno. 16). We are called to be fruitful! Jesus calls each one of us in the gospel of today to bear much fruit (John 15:1-8). He is the good gardener and says “I am the vine and you are the branches.
Remain united to me and you will bear much fruit.”
What are these fruits? Fruits of the Holy Spirit! Joy, peace, love, understanding, kindness, courage and many more.
The secret to a Christian life that bears fruit? Remaining united to Jesus. Cut off from him we can do nothing. Once, a man said to Jesus, “I can do many things not united to you.” And the Lord responded, “Yes, but nothing good.”
Jesus insists on this vital union with him. “As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.”
What is this vital union with Jesus? It is a living connection, listening to his word and putting it into practice. To be rooted in his word. Can a Christian still bear fruit if he is not rooted in listening to the word of God? Yes, but the fruits will always remain small. Like the fruits of a Bonsai tree. A Bonsai tree looks pretty. It has cute little fruits but they do not serve anyone. Why are the fruits so small? Because the roots are shallow.
When Jesus was explaining the Parable of the Sower, he talked of the man with shallow roots: “He who has no roots lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” (Matthew 13:21). However a deep listening will give us deep roots. The one who dedicates time to listen to the Word of God “is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8).
How deep are our roots? Deep enough to bear the drought?
I remember a leader of a Church group sharing about the lack of vitality in his group. They were so very active, doing many things but producing little fruit. They decided to dedicate to prayer for one year and actually stopped the regular activity. When they recommenced, the group blossomed and bore much fruit. Jesus tells us in the gospel today, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it.”
Jesus is the first one who wants us to bear much fruit! He knows that fruit bearing makes us happy. When our lives have bitter fruits like anger, resentment or jealousy then we have faces like someone who has bit a sour lemon! Jesus wants to see us happy! That is why he insists “Remain united to me and you will bear much fruit. When you bear much fruit you give my Father glory.”
Oh that our lives could be like the display of the fruit sellers here in the Philippines – full of choice, juicy, colorful fruits of all shapes and sizes. Lord, help us to remain united to you, to be rooted deeply in your word so that our lives can be truly fruitful!