Today’s reading is John 15:1-17 (NABRE):
The Vine and the Branches.
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. 3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. 4 Remain in me, as I remain in you. 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. 17 This I command you: love one another.
Father Samele, the white-haired, black-rimmed glasses-wearing priest at my high school repeatedly told my classmates and I that the commandments of the Christian faith, and, in fact, the Christian faith as a whole, can be summed up in six words: Love God, and love your neighbor. Yes, this is the Great Commandment that we have already been blogging about during 40 Days in John (see our posts titled “From Jesus, With Love” and “Love Language”).
The Great Commandment, restated in Father Samele’s six-word summary, generates for me a prayer that I recite almost constantly when I am angry at the world:
“Show me how to love.”
There are certain elements that are implicit in this prayer and worth expounding upon here. First, this is a direct address to God, as in, “God, show me how to love.” I direct this prayer to God, because I believe that he is the Being that loves best. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). I want to learn from the best. Second, this prayer states implicitly, “God, show me how to love by allowing me to follow Jesus.” For while God may be the Being that loves best, I cannot learn from God alone, for he is purely Divine. I must learn also from his Son, Jesus, who is both fully divine and fully human. Third, this prayer requests that I love other people and my current situation, as in, “God, show me how to love Your will for my life and these people in my life.” Still, the most implicit aspect of this prayer is that it is actually a request that God show me how to love Himself, for it is through loving our neighbors that we also love God. Implicitly, my prayer asks, “God, show me how to love You.”
Today’s passage features one of the “I Am” declarations by Jesus in the Gospel of John. Today, we read of Jesus declaring, “’I am the true vine’” (John 15:1). Jesus tells his disciples, “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” (John 15:4) and “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (John 15:8). The “fruit” that God wants us to bear is that of love. God loves us so much that he did not leave us alone to question and wonder about how we might love. Rather, God gave us his Son, Jesus. If we remain in Jesus, the true vine, we will know how to love, thereby producing fruit, the sweetest fruit.
When I am angry, there are times that I’d rather strangle a person with a vine than remain in Jesus, the true vine. Yet, during Lent especially, I am reminded that we do not ever go through something that Jesus himself has not experienced. If Jesus could love and pray for, rather than be angry at, those people who crucified him, then surely can I, surely can we, love and pray for those who wrong us in insignificant ways.
Jesus’ Great Commandment is to “love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). I heard it through the grape vine, Jesus who is the “true vine” (John 15:1), and now so have you.
Marina Spinelli ’18 is a Junior in Eliot House studying Human Evolutionary Biology.