As we discussed on 23 March 2020, reading the Bible might be a good way of reflecting each day during this pandemic. Why not pick up the Bible today and start reading from Chapter 1? Or, you could try reading a passage of the New Testament each day? Alternatively, you can try taking a short passage of Scripture and pondering it.
Throughout its 800 years, Carmelite spirituality has placed a particularly strong emphasis on pondering Scripture and is called Lectio Divina. This is the Latin for 'Holy Reading' and was a form and approach to praying with Scripture that was common among medieval religious orders. Essentially Lectio Divina involves taking a short passage of Scripture and pondering it. This can be done alone and normally involves prolonged periods of silence.
Today’s reading is John 15:1-8 and this reading plus a reflection and prayer can be viewed below:
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God, loving Father,
You have given us Your Son Jesus Christ
as the true vine of life
and our source of strength.
Help us to live His life
as living branches attached to the vine
and to bear plentiful fruit
of justice, goodness and love.
Let our union with Him become visible
in our openness to one another
and in our unity as brothers and sisters,
that He may be visibly present among us
now and for ever.
2) Gospel Reading - John 15:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
• Chapters 15 to 17 of the Gospel of John present us with the diverse teachings of Jesus which the Evangelist has put together and placed in the friendly and fraternal context of the last encounter of Jesus with His disciples:
Jn 15:1-17: Reflections around the parable of the vine.
Jn 15:18 to 16:4a: Advice on how to behave if we are persecuted.
Jn 16:4b-15: Promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Jn 16:16-33: Reflections on the farewell and the return of Jesus.
Jn 17:1-26: The Testament of Jesus in the form of a prayer.
• The Gospels of today and tomorrow present part of the reflection of Jesus around the parable of the vine. To understand the significance of this parable, it is important to carefully study the words used by Jesus. It is also important to closely observe a vine, or any other plant, to see how it grows: how the trunk and branches become united, and how the fruit springs from each.
• John 15:1-2: Jesus presents the analogy of the vine. In the Old Testament the image of the vine indicated the people of Israel (Is 5:1-2). The people were like a vine that God planted with great tenderness on the hills of Palestine (Ps 80:9-12). But the vine does not correspond to what God expected. Instead of producing good grapes, it produces sour fruit which is good for nothing (Is 5:3-4). Jesus is the new vine, the true vine. In one phrase alone He gives us the comparison. He says, “I am the true vine and My Father is the vine dresser. 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.” Pruning is painful but it is necessary. It purifies the vine, and thus it grows and bears more fruit.
• John 15:3-6: Jesus explains and applies the parable. The disciples are already purified. They have already been pruned by the word that they heard from Jesus. God does the pruning in us through His word which comes to us from the Bible, from trials in our life (Rom 5:4; Heb 12:6), and from many other means. Jesus extends the parable and says, “I am the vine, you are the branches!” It is not a question of two different things: on one side the vine and on the other the branches. No! The vine does not exist without the branches. We are part of Jesus. Jesus is the whole. In order to produce fruit, the branch has to be united to the vine. It is only in this way that it can receive the sap. “Without Me you can do nothing!” The branch that does not bear fruit will be cut down. It dries up and it is ready to be burnt. It is good for nothing, not even for wood!
• John 15:7-8: Remain in my love. Our model is that which Jesus Himself lives in His relationship with the Father. He says, “As the Father has loved Me, I have loved you. Remain in My love!” He insists on saying that we must remain in Him and that His words should remain in us. And He even says, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for whatever you want and you will get it!”, because what the Father wants most is that we become disciples of Jesus and that we bear much fruit. And what is it that we should want? If we are to be like Jesus, it is the same as what the Father wants, and that He grants.
4) Personal questions
• What have been the various pruning, or difficult, moments in my life which have helped me to grow? What have been the pruning or difficult moments that we have had in our community which have helped us to grow?
• What keeps life unified and alive, capable of bearing fruit, is the sap which goes through it. What is the sap which goes through our community which keeps it alive, capable of bearing fruit?
• Are those things that I ask of the Father consistent with His will and desire, or my own?
5) Concluding Prayer
Sing a new song to Yahweh!
Sing to Yahweh, all the earth!
Sing to Yahweh, bless His name!
Proclaim His salvation day after day. (Ps 96:1-2)
SAINT JUDE, PRAY FOR US.