"And every branch that does bear fruit he prunes"
“Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away. And every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are already pruned by means of the word I have spoken to you.”
It’s possible to prune trees all year round, but if your trimming to stimulate growth that will produce more fruit then it’s the winter time that the pruning needs to be done. We are the branches that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel, it’s perhaps not an easy Gospel because producing no fruit means being cut away & even when you are producing fruit there is still a pruning, which still seems to indicate suffering & struggle. It’s the way of a Christian life, growth, fruit, pruning, struggle, new growth, fruit pruning and the cycle continues.
Jesus explains to the Apostles that they have already been pruned by the word he has spoken to them. He has explained in many ways how they should live, how they should deal with human nature. So much of how Jesus tells us we should live is contrary to what our natural responses can be, we need to learn how to live as Christians, we need to learn to be Christ’s. Learning to turn the other cheek is perhaps the first of our most basic instincts that we must deal with. As children more often than not our instinct when struck is to strike back. Purity of body, heart & mind is also not our natural inclination. We are inclined towards selfishness which is really the opposite of purity. Again we have to learn to be pure, we need to be pruned in order to grow in purity. I think we can see pruning as giving into ourselves and giving over to Jesus. Giving in to the fact that we can only ever master our human condition by surrendering it over to Jesus. You would think that being pruned once would be all that is required, but our struggle with our human condition is that when the growth comes, when the bloom appears that turns into fruit we are in danger of becoming selfish again, we are in danger of believing that we are the reason for the fruit.
The reason the pruning takes place in the winter when the trees are bare is because the tree is resting, in some way it’s enjoying the glory of having produced the fruit. The gardener can see the tree fully, there is nothing hidden. Just like the way God sees us, everything is visible. The gardener also sees clearly where it’s wise to prune in order to stimulate growth. I think if we are aware of this cycle and particularly this part of pruning that we can live our lives in a very optimistic way. Any suffering we may have to endure can be easier to carry. We can see ourselves as part of Gods plan, not for ourselves but for the whole of humanity, we are only a branch in a very large tree, however if we can produce fruit on our branch & our neighbours can produce fruit on theirs suddenly you have a large harvest, one branch at a time.
Lord thank you for the times that I have been pruned that have allowed me to grow. I am yours, do with me as you will.
I am the vine, you are the branches
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’