First Reading: Acts 9:26-31
And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists; but they were seeking to kill him. And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesare’a, and sent him off to Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Sama’ria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 22:26-28, 30-32
From thee comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live for ever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. Yea, to him shall all the proud of the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and he who cannot keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it.
Second Reading: 1 John 3:18-24
Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
Gospel: John 15:1-8
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.
I feel fairly inadequate talking about today’s Gospel because it is so important.
I think it would take a lifetime to let the full meaning of Christ’s words today saturate our souls, and conversely it also takes a lifetime to fully live these words.
I feel inadequate in talking about this passage because I know there are many branches that need to be pruned within me. I also know that this pruning is going on right now and I don’t like it most of the time. There is no easy way to experience pruning.
The things that may need pruning could be our own ideas about our lives, about ourselves, about others, the many attachments we harbour within ourselves that keep getting between us and an intimate relationship with Christ. Or it could be something very physical, very demanding, a dramatic loss of the material or a loss of relationship or something else we hold dear.
This Gospel selection is so important because it is so personal. The truth remains that Christ is seeking a personal relationship with each of us, but not personal in the sense of us custom fitting Him into our personal ideas and into our lives. No, personal in a very intimate sense, by us becoming part of Him. This intense intimacy of abiding in Christ can only happen if we allow Him to prune us, to form us to Himself. It is this exact process that makes us feel far from God, that makes us wonder if God is really there, that makes us feel like we must not be doing things right or that God doesn’t appreciate our faith.
I think that’s why it’s so hard for me to absorb this beautiful, intense invitation from Christ. It is so hard to realize I’m becoming part of Him when things feel dark, when I have to give up my own will, when suffering hurts. It’s just so easy to say to myself that because I practice my faith I deserve the comfortable and easy, I deserve to be spared from pain. Christ should fit into my life where I say he should, not I abiding in Him.
As I hear these words again today, “Abide in me,” I realize that they continue to call me towards intimacy with my Creator, but that to abide in Him necessitates painful pruning.
God, grant me the strength to be pruned so I may abide in you.
Christy Isinger is the mom to five lovely, loud children living in the Canadian wilds. You can find out more about her here.