5th Sunday of Easter
I had a chance to talk to a young man who is the son of a very wealthy couple. He is very much aware of his parent’s disappointment with what he has chosen to become. Compared to his siblings, he is not as successful, as productive, and as rich as his parents would have wanted him to be. He prefers to spend his time and energy in their parish church. His parents are greatly disappointed with that.
But he said something very profound to me: “Di ba, Father, pagdating ng panahon hindi naman tatanungin sa atin ng Panginoon, ‘Naging successful ka ba? Umasenso ka ba sa buhay? Yumaman ka ba?’” “I don’t want to be successful in the eyes of my parents. I want to be fruitful in the eyes of the Lord.” This young man understands well and take to heart what Jesus is saying in today’s gospel reading.
Jesus says, “I am the vine and you are the branches. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit…” We all want our lives to be fruitful. But I am not sure if we are really allowing ourselves to be fruitful by remaining in Jesus.
I think we have to make a distinction between being fruitful and being productive. Being fruitful is not the same as being productive. Product is something we make or produce. While fruit is something the Lord makes in us. Our society puts a high premium on productivity. Somehow the suggestion is made that we are what we produce. Our value as a person is based on or measured by how much we produce.
It is an important question to ask: What are we working on? On what are we putting more of our time and energy? On being productive? Or on being fruitful? Are we defined more by our products or by our fruits? Well, we wish that we can be both – productive and fruitful. But we might be deceiving ourselves into thinking that we can put practically ALL our time and energy trying to be productive in terms of doing or making things that are materially or financially profitable for us, or that will give us political power and domination, or that will bring us worldly honors and successes, or that will put us in a position of influence on social media, and expect our lives to be fruitful in the eyes of the Lord.
Take note how Jesus puts it: When we remain in him, when we stay close to him, we are able to bear fruit. Fruit is what we bear due to our relationship with the Lord. Our lives can only be fruitful if we remain in Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, we must come to know that products – the things we make – cannot be the basis of our fruitfulness. Our fruitfulness is never defined and measured by the material wealth we work so hard for, by the political power we campaign to have, by the social status we strive to put ourselves in, by the public approval we toil to get, or by the influence we aspire to have on social media. I am not suggesting that such things are wrong. On the contrary, they can greatly enhance our lives. However, they cannot be the basis of our fruitfulness.
“Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Our life must be one of remaining in Jesus. It must be defined by our connection and attachment to the Source of Life. It must be characterized by our deep, intimate, personal relationship with the Lord. Indeed, without him, we can do nothing – we cannot have a life that is worth living, we cannot grow and live a purposeful life, we cannot experience meaning and fulfilment, we cannot be the best person that we can be. In other words, for us to have the fullness of life… for us to live a righteous and holy life… for us to be able to love without condition… for us to be faithful stewards of God’s gifts… we must remain in Jesus. This is the right connection we must make. That is why the Lord Jesus is telling us: “I appeal to you, for your own good, remain in me.”
Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You for the grace of allowing us to be branches attached to You. May we never fail to remember that we will bear much fruit only if we remain in You. May we have the perseverance to remain in You, because without You we can do nothing, we cannot bear fruit. Amen.