Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The Lord returns to “remain in Him”, and tells us: “Christian life is to remain in me.” Remain (John 15: 1-8). And here he uses the image of the vine, how the branches remain on the vine. And this remain is not a passive remain, a falling asleep in the Lord: this would perhaps be a beatific sleep; but that’s not it. This remain is an active remain, and also is a mutual remain. Why? Because He says, “Remain in me and I in you” (v .4). He also remains in us, not only us in Him. It’s a mutual remain. In another part he says: I and my Father “we will come to him and make our home with him”(John 14:23). This is a mystery, but a mystery of life, a beautiful mystery. This mutual remaining. Even with the example of the vine: it is true, the branches without the vine can do nothing because the sap doesn’t get to them, they need the sap to grow and to bear fruit. But also the tree, the vine needs branches, otherwise the fruits are not attached to the tree, to the vine. It is a mutual need, it is a reciprocal remain to bear fruit.
And this is Christian life: it is true, Christian life is to carry out the commandments (Ex 20, 1-11), this must be done. Christian life is to follow the way of the Beatitudes (Mt 5: 1-13): this must be done. Christian life is to carry on the works of mercy, as the Lord teaches us in the Gospel (Mt 25: 35-36): and this must be done. But even more: it is this mutual remaining. We without Jesus cannot do anything, like the branches without the vine. And He – let me say it – without us it seems that He can do nothing, because the fruit comes from the branches, not the tree, the vine. In this community, in this intimacy of remaining fruitful, the Father and Jesus remain in me and I remain in Them.
And it comes to my mind to say, what is the need that the tree, the vine has for the branches? It’s bearing fruit. What is the need – let’s say a little boldly – what is the need that Jesus has for us? The testimony. When he says in the Gospel that we are light, he says, “Be the light, so that men may see your good deeds and glorify the Father”(Mt 5:16), that is, witness is the need that Jesus has for us. To bear witness to his name, so that faith, the Gospel grows by our testimony.
This is a mysterious way: Jesus glorified in heaven, having passed through the Passion, needs our testimony to grow, to proclaim, for the Church to grow. And this is the mutual mystery of “remaining.” He, the Father and the Spirit remain in us, and we remain in Jesus.
It will do us good to think and reflect on this: to remain in Jesus; and Jesus remains in us. To remain in Jesus to have the sap, the strength, to have the justification, the gratuitousness, to have fertility. And He remains in us to give us the strength to the bear fruit (John 15: 5), to give us the strength to witness with which the Church grows.
And one question, I ask myself: what is the relationship between Jesus remaining in me and I remaining in Him? It’s a relationship of intimacy, a mystical relationship, a wordless relationship. “But Father, but this, let the mystics do it!” No, this is for all of us. With small thoughts: “Lord, I know you are there: give me strength and I will do what you tell me.” That intimate dialogue with the Lord. The Lord is present, the Lord is present in us, the Father is present in us, the Holy Spirit is present in us; they remain in us. But I have to remain in Them.
May the Lord help us to understand, to feel this mystery of remaining on which Jesus insists so much, so much, so much. Many times when we talk about the vine and the branches we stop at the image of the work of the farmer, the Father: the one that bears fruit he prunes, that is, he prunes, and those that don’t bear fruit he cuts and throws away (John 15: 1-2). It’s true, he does this, but that’s not all, no. There’s more. This is the help: the trials, the difficulties of life, even the corrections that the Lord gives us. But let’s not stop there. Between the vine and the branches there is this intimate remaining. We, the branches, need the sap, and the vine needs the fruits, our testimony.