The following is a reflection by Associate Bonnie Chester based on the Gospel reading from Sunday, April 28, 2024: Jn 15:1-8,  The parable of the Cine and Branches.

Some of the most intimate and rewarding conversations happen around the dinner table with family and friends. This was true for Jesus and His twelve disciples during the Last Supper in the Upper Room on the night before His crucifixion. Though we now know it was His Last Supper, did the disciples realize what was about to unfold?

The evangelist John, who was present and often pictured at Jesus’ side, devotes four entire chapters (Jn 14-17) in his gospel to Jesus’ words that night. It was primarily Jesus speaking, telling His apostles that He was leaving to prepare a place for them and would then return to take them there. He proclaimed, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” He promised that the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, would be with them always. Read those chapters slowly to absorb all of Jesus’ promises and guidance. He was indeed leaving His disciples—and us—in capable hands, assuring that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would forever watch over us.

My favorite analogy, or parable, is that of the Vine and the Branches in Chapter 15: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes any of my branches that are not bearing fruit and prunes the fruitful ones, so they bear more.” As the vine grower, God, our Father, tends to us. His love, like sunshine, and our faith community (family and friends), like nourishing moisture, allow us to flourish. Your imagination can conjure all sorts of images when you think of Him as the vine grower. Jesus, the Son, is the vine supporting all of us branches. His divine love enables our growth and fruitful life of faith. Without Him, would I be able to grow? The image of dead wood—broken, lying useless on the ground comes to mind. I have to remain in Him, attached to that vine.

When Jesus says, “Remain in me as I remain in you,” I wonder how to maintain that closeness when life’s demands pull my thoughts elsewhere. The answer: By continually leaning on Him in love, trust, and friendship. For me, that means beginning each day in prayer, offering gratitude throughout, and when a moment of despair strikes, voicing my troubles and then listening for His guidance.

Lastly, the pruning—ouch! What parts of my life need cutting away so that my branch, my union with God, bears abundant fruit rather than withering? Self-righteousness, impatience—those thick branches must be slashed! As Jesus told His disciples, “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.” These are some beautiful promises if we allow Him to prune away all that harms our relationship with Him.

Lord, let me be Your most fruitful branch ever! Grant me a faith so strong that I remain united with You, the vine, forever one with You. Amen.

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 every one 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.”

Jn 15: 1-8