Whenever we hear this gospel about the vine and the branches it’s difficult not to derive some sense of comfort from Our Lord’s words. Who doesn’t get a feeling of reassurance when they read that Jesus invites them to remain in him?
But there’s another side to these verses that can sound ominous. Like a good gardener, Our Lord wants to prune us. He wants to strip away those parts of our lives that don’t bear fruit for him. This can give us pause for thought, especially when we stop to consider how many times we say “no” to the Lord in the course of a week, or even a day.
And yet, we shouldn’t worry, because Our Lord told his disciples, as he tells us today: “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you”. Washed clean in the waters of Baptism, we are already forgiven. We are already justified. We are already citizens of heaven. All that remains is for us to embrace our citizenship more fully and ask Our Lord to reign over our hearts.
Think of the disciples. They spent three years with Our Lord, and still they needed some pruning. Matthew the tax collector had already given up his cheating ways. Mary Magdalene had already been delivered of seven demons. James and John already had to deal with their desire to be given special seats in the Kingdom of Heaven.
No matter what had already been pruned from these disciples’ lives, there was still more to come. Peter would still deny knowing Our Lord three times. All the disciples would run away when Our Lord was arrested. And Thomas would refuse to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Our Lord knew all this was going to happen, and still he entrusted his Church to these weak and fallible men. And he entrusts it to us today. So we shouldn’t worry about the pruning that is still to come. We need to remember that Our Lord accepts us just as we are. He believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves. He has already accepted us into his kingdom. We may need some more pruning, and we have to accept this if we are going to be fruitful.