In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit (Isaiah 27:6). This Scripture, along with Psalm 80:8-9, Isaiah 5:1-7, and Jeremiah 2:21, helps us understand the powerful picture Jesus was painting for his disciples in John 15. What he was saying related to the history of the Jewish people and to prophecies well known in their tradition. He was speaking of those things which were foundational to their very identity as a people. And now we recognize that our very identity as the body of Christ can be pictured as a fulfillment of these prophecies, because we are the branches which draw perpetual nourishment from Christ, the True Vine, to Whom we remain securely attached, by faith and obedience.
The Catechism describes the relationship of the Church with Christ, the Vine, and the Father, the Vinedresser, in this way: “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil.2:13). Far from diminishing the creature’s dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God’s power, wisdom, and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for “without a Creator the creature vanishes” (Gaudium et spes 36). Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God’s grace. -CCC 308
In John 15:2, we are told by Jesus Christ what is involved in the work of vinedressing in our lives as his followers: some branches are taken away, others are pruned. To help us grasp this better, look at verse 6, along with Matthew 3:10; Hebrews 6:4-8; and and Ezekiel 15:1-8. And then look at verse 8, along with Hebrews 12:5-11; James 1:2-4; and I Peter 1:6-7. If we read verse 16 along with verse 2, we get a more complete picture of what the Vinedresser is about. St. Thomas Aquinas explains, The vinedresser (the Father) cultivates the vine. Now to cultivate something is to devote one’s interest to it….God cultivates us to make us better by his work, since he roots out the evil seeds in our hearts. As Augustine says, he opens our hearts with the plow of his words, plants the seeds of the commandments, and harvests the fruit of devotion. But we cultivate God, not by plowing but by adoring, in order that we may be made better by him: “If anyone is a worshiper,” that is, a cultivator, “of God and does his will, God listens to him” (John 9:31). And so the Father is the vinedresser of this vine for the good of others. -Section 1982, Commentary on John
In John 15:3 we encounter the cleansing, sanctifying power of the word of Jesus. John 13:10 and John 17:17 speak of this truth, as well. And we see that there is a purpose, a wonderful goal, involved in this cleansing which we experience by truly receiving Jesus’ word in all its fullness, when we read verses 4, 5, and 7. This purpose is expressed by Jesus in Matthew 7:7, as well; and he reemphasizes it in John 15:16b in a remarkable way.
In verses 4 and 5 Jesus speaks about abiding. Verses 9 and 10 continue this teaching of his. See John 6:56, I John 2:5-6, Matthew 8:29, and Galatians 5:22,23 to deepen our appreciation of what it means to abide in him and he in us. The Catechism, in Section 737, makes explicit the link between Jesus’ teachings during this Last Supper and what we now experience in the eucharistic meal: “(The Holy Spirit) makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may bear much fruit. ” Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, and Luke 22:18 help us grasp this inseparable connection of his abiding-in-the-vine teaching with the Eucharist which we even now share.
Here are a few more things to look at while you have your Bible open:
Verse 11 – See John 3:29 and John 17:13.
Verse 12 – See verse 17 as well as John 13:34.
Verses 13-15 – See Romans 5:5-7; Luke 12:4; and Matthew 12:50. Also, see II Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8 to find out who the first person was to be called a friend of God.
Verse 17 – See the CCC, Section 2074.
Next week we’ll continue studying John 15, through the first four verses of John 16, where we will hear Jesus strengthening his disciples for what is ahead of them. Shalom, JC