FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
BEARING MUCH FRUIT
May 21, 2014
Today’s gospel: John 15:1-8
Jesus tells us, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” (v.1). In addition, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (v.5a). Here is the relationship between the Father and the Son, and the relationship between the Son and us, and thus the relationship between the Father and us. There is the intimate connection, from the Father, to Jesus, to us. The consequences of this intimacy are important for us to know.
First, we are to bear not just fruit, but much fruit. “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (v.8). Disciples do the work of the Master. Jesus won salvation for all. We are now to proclaim that salvation. If we are to be true disciples, then we must do an effective work of evangelization. Further, bearing much fruit is how we give the glory back to the Father.
Second, we can only bear fruit as we are attached to Jesus. “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.” (v.4). Further, as we are called to bear much fruit, then this intimate connection becomes even more crucial. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit” (v.5b). Thus we must walk the path of Jesus. We must be intimate with him in prayer and reading the Bible. We must strive for holiness and Christian perfection. Jesus tells us the sober truth: “because without me you can do nothing.” (v.5c).
Third, God continues to prune us, even as we are producing fruit. Jesus says that “every one that does (bear fruit) he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” (v.2b). The Lord is not content is just seeing us get by with a little. He has entrusted to us his disciples this most important work of proclaiming the gospel. Thus he deepens and strengthens our spirituality, our endurance, our perseverance, our commitment. This happens as God prunes us through the cross, ridding us of our laziness, comfort, complaining, dissent, doubt, pride, being self-referential, lack of giving.
Fourth, God discards us if we do not bear fruit. “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit” (v.2a). We see that every member of the body of Christ is supposed to bear fruit. One cannot be a member of the body and just not contribute to the good of the body. One cannot just take. If the branch continues to take life-giving sap from the vine, but gives nothing in return, then that branch is useless, and if useless, is to be cut off and thrown away. “Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither” (v.6a). And of course, cut off from the Lord, one will wither and die. In fact, the eternal consequence can be devastating, as “people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” (v.6b). Not producing fruit for the Kingdom, no longer connected with Jesus, not obeying the commission to proclaim the gospel, not on fire with the Spirit, one can only look to that other fire.
Now fruit of course comes in different ways. There is personal spirituality. One can be a contemplative nun in a cloister, and one’s participation is prayer and sacrifice (very important of course). But if one is called to be an evangelizer (as indeed everyone is), and especially if one is part of a community whose charism it is to evangelize, and in fact to do rapid and massive evangelization (as we are in CFC-FFL), then fruit will be judged on those terms. How are we bearing fruit? In what ways are we contributing to the work? If we cannot actually be in the frontlines of the war, how are we interceding for our work, how are we supporting our work with our finances, how are we striving to bring unity and peace in the body so that it can focus on its assault on the one enemy?
Because we have been privileged in CFC-FFL, because we have our formation and our pastoral support, because we have our distinct calling and charism, more is expected of us. God has indeed blessed us with so much. “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (v.3). All the more, we thus have a greater responsibility.
Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” (v.7). Now that is the key to being empowered to witness. We can call upon Jesus who is the vine to whom we are attached. But we must make sure we indeed are attached, that we are growing to be like him, that we are fully abiding in him, that we are obedient to his commands, that we live the life he has made known to us, that we are faithful to our call and our covenant, that we are working at peace and unity in the body, that we are striving to be saints, martyrs and warriors.
If we are, then ask Jesus for whatever and it will be done for you. But what we ask has to be in accordance with his will. Know what God’s will is for you and for our community of which you are a part. Then confidently ask.
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