Remain in Me

Spring is upon us the trees are blooming, flowers are shedding the winter dullness for the splendor of their vibrant colors. Life teems all around us with the promise of more abundant blooms and fragrance yet to come. 

Those of us who are gardeners are preparing and getting ready for the growing season. We till the soil, pull away any weeds that have grown in and prune shrubs and bushes. We do all this in the hopes of optimizing the spring and summer months. Whether it is a flower garden or a vegetable garden, we hope to have the most beautiful and bountiful one ever. 

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading Jesus’ reminds us that “I am the Vine, and My Father is the Vine Grower” (Jn 15:1). Like any good gardener, He clears away the branches that no longer bear any fruit; pruning those that do. We are also reminded that without the vine, the branches are nothing. As a child I watched my father clip away at our grape vines and fruit trees, sometimes appearing to leave very little of what I recognized before. Yet, year after year, those plants that to me appeared diminished or stripped down, somehow bore more and more fruit, often giving us an amazing and bountiful harvest that begged to be shared with others. When I would ask my father why he would cut back so much of the branches and vine, he would explain that this allowed the plant to draw upon its own strength to bear even more fruit; allowing for new growth. 

We, too, are the branches, and at times life seems to keep clipping away at us. There are days when we often feel we have little left to give, yet somehow in our very depths it comes forth. We not only find the courage and strength to persevere, but we experience an over abundance of it. We are always being pruned and trimmed by the Master of the vineyard; yet without the vine we are reminded that we are nothing. Like the trees and vineyard in my childhood backyard, it was from the roots that the strength came to push forth new branches and blooms, with the promise of a bountiful harvest. 

In order to bear much fruit, we must remain grounded to the Vine. When Jesus is the center of our lives, no matter what is thrown at us, what storms we bear, we somehow come through with so much more to offer. When we seek to strengthen our relationship with Christ and remain in Him, we are given so much more, and what we ask, we receive. “By this the Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples” (Jn 15:8).

So how do we stay true to the Vine? We stay connected to the Vine by reading the Gospel stories, taking the message to live Christian lives as Jesus’ hands and feet here on earth. To be Christ to all we meet bearing His message of love and hope to everyone we encounter. To participate fully in the Sacraments and Eucharist, to pray and live out our lives connected to Jesus. The more connected we are to the Vine, the more fruitful and joyful our lives will be. 

In Sunday’s Gospel, we are reminded and asked to “remain in Me, as I remain in you.” It is a simple statement, but yet speaks volumes. If we are to bear much fruit, we must “remain in Him,” in all that we do. In prayer, in admiration, in love and even in the suffering, in our work and actions, in all are waking moments. We are asked to go within, to the quiet of our souls and listen for the voice of God speaking to us from our very depths. “Deep calls to deep” (Ps 42:7a). These are the very roots in which the work of the Master can take hold; it is in these depths that our nothingness encounters God’s Divine mercy and love.  It is here that we find the strength and courage to die to ourselves in order to bear much fruit; it is here that we are changed. Not by hopelessness and despair, but by love. Like the trees all around us, it is from the depths that we draw the strength to bloom. So bloom where you are planted, and remember to “remain in Christ, as He remains in you.”

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts