“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.” This is the central theme of this Sunday’s gospel in John 15:1-8.
When a person suffers from stroke, blood is prevented from reaching the brain, depriving it of much-needed oxygen and nutrients. When this happens, brain cells cannot survive; they die. When an electric bulb is cut from its power supply, electricity is stopped from flowing from the power source to the bulb itself. When this happens, the bulb ceases to emit light; it is turned off. In the same manner, any human being who is disconnected from the source of life loses his own life, and this source is no other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Jesus tells us, “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. 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.”
How can we remain in him? The last part of the Second Reading (1 John 3:18-24) gives us the answer, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.” And what does he command us to do? Two things were mentioned in the text: (1) That we should believe in the name of Jesus Christ, and (2) That we love one another.
To believe in Jesus Christ is a big thing. It is not simply assenting mentally on the existence of Christ. It is an acceptance of who he really is. “Jesus,” in Hebrew, means “God saves.” “Christ,” on the other hand, is from the Greek translation of the Hebrew title, “Messiah,” which means “Anointed.” Anointed by the Father, and anointed with the Holy Spirit. Thus, to believe in “Jesus Christ” means to accept him as our Anointed Savior. The apostle Peter professes, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).
To love one another, on the other hand, is to love “not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” St. Paul writes, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10). Love, therefore, is not merely an emotion but one that requires action. And for the best example of love, again, we only have to look at our Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to save us from our sins. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Do we want to remain in Christ? Then we should believe in Jesus as our Father-sent, Holy Spirit-anointed Savior, and we should love one another according to how the word of God teaches us. That way, we remain as branches connected to the vine–bearing fruit and pruned to bear more fruit.
Finally, faithfully remaining in Christ carries with it a great promise, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). This is one of the deepest secrets of effective prayer, and it is truly good news for us who believe and love.