5th Sunday of Easter
A few years ago, I read a Letter to the Editor of a major newspaper with an intriguing title: “The Need to Prune the Church.” The letter is basically saying that just like the government, the Catholic Church is saddled with bad branches, and they must be taken away. The Church must be pruned.
Though the words sound with a tone of self-righteousness and even with bitterness, but all things considered, the letter raises some valid points and issues. Instead of asking who these bad branches are – branches that must be taken away – let us, rather, ask how we can help in pruning the Church. And we must realize that such pruning will have to start with ourselves.
Jesus talks about pruning when he says in today’s gospel reading: “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does, he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Jesus is referring to the pruning that the Father is doing to ensure that the vine will be more fruit. Jesus himself is the Vine, and we are the branches.
Today’s gospel passage challenges us to ask ourselves: As a branch of the Vine, am I bearing fruit? Do I need to be pruned in order to bear more fruits?
Jesus is waking us up. Sometimes we become complacent in being branches attached to the Vine, Jesus. We might be too presumptuous in thinking that we remain branches of Jesus the Vine, that we are still living from the energy and life of the Vine.
How can we know if we are, in truth and in fact, still living from the energy of the Vine, still remaining as branches of Jesus the Vine? We can know it by the fruits of our lives or lack of them. Jesus says, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” The fruit that is expected of us is discipleship.
Let us honestly examine ourselves and ask: Am I bearing the fruit of discipleship? Is this fruit of discipleship evident in my life? Is this really the fruit I desire to produce in my life? Am I doing enough to bear the fruit of discipleship?
Actually, all of us need to be pruned constantly. That is why, we have to honestly ask ourselves: What sort of pruning do we need right now? What part or parts of our lives need pruning? The parts or aspects or facets of our lives that are not bearing fruit must be cut out. The “dead and useless wood” in us must be removed. Our energy must be preserved and all must go into our growth and bearing fruit.
We need to be pruned of selfishness and self-centeredness in order to bear the fruit of seeking first the kingdom of God, of telling the Good News of God’s self-giving love, of committing ourselves to the life of service and ministry.
We need to be pruned of inordinate desires and earthly attachments in order to bear the fruit of enjoying the things of heaven, of having a deeper personal relationship with the Lord, of growing and being nurtured in our spiritual life.
We need to be pruned of anger, resentment, and bitterness in order to bear the fruit of mercy and forgiveness, of being instruments of healing and reconciliation, of fostering peace and harmony in our family and community.
We need to be pruned of our selfish ambitions and vested interests in order to bear the fruit of mission-partnership with Christ, of good stewardship of God’s gifts – by generously sharing our time, talents, and resources for the common good.
“He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does, he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Let us allow the Lord to prune us that we may bear more fruit.
Sue Knepp has this prayer which I consider as “a prayer for pruning.” Let us end with this prayer: Lord, sometimes You have to break, so You can rebuild… wound, so you can heal… let me walk in darkness, so I see Your light… let me be confused, so I seek Your truth… let me feel emptiness, so You can fill me… let me feel lonely, so I can see what a friend You are… let me learn the hard things so I can be a gentle teacher… let me be void of feelings so I must walk by faith… take away my future plans, to teach me to live one day at a time… show me the futility of life, so I will see that everything is loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. Amen.