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February 1979

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears much fruit, for cut off from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Imagine a branch broken off from the vine. It has no future, no further hope, it can bear no more fruit and all that remains is for it to wither and be burnt.

As a Christian, think on that spiritual death which is bound to come to those who do not remain united to Christ. How terrible! It means to be completely without life, even if you work from morning to night, even if you think yourself useful to humanity, even if your friends applaud you, even if your earthly goods grow, even if you make remarkable sacrifices. All this may mean something to you on earth, but it has no significance for Christ or for eternity. And it is that life which matters.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears much fruit, for cut off from me you can do nothing.

How are you to remain in Christ and Christ remain in you? How are you to be a green and fruitful branch which is embodied in the vine?

First of all you need to believe in Christ. But that is not enough. Your faith must affect the things of everyday life. That is to say that you must live in conformity will this faith, putting into practice the words of Jesus. You cannot neglect those means of grace that Christ has left for you and through which you obtain or reacquire unity with him, if perchance it has been broken. Christ will not feel that you are joined to him unless you strive to be grafted into the community of the Church, into your local church.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears much fruit, for cut off from me you can do nothing.

"Whoever remains in me, with me in him".

See how Christ speaks of your unity with him, but also of his unity with you. If you are united with him, he is in you, he is present in the intimacy of your heart. From this is born a relationship and a loving conversation, a collaboration between Jesus and you, his disciple.

Look at the consequences: bearing much fruit, just as a branch which is well grafted into the vine gives bunches of tasty grapes.

"Much fruit" means that you will be endowed with a truly apostolic fruitfulness, i.e., with the power to open the eyes of many to the unique, revolutionary words of Christ and that you will be able to give to them the strength to follow and obey those words.

"Much fruit" means that you will know how to initiate, or sometimes support, works great and small for the relief of the many varied needs of the world, according to the grace that God has given you.

"Much fruit" means much, not "little". This means that you can carry into the humanity which flows around you a current of goodness, community and mutual love.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears much fruit, for cut off from me you can do nothing.

But "much fruit" means not only the material and spiritual welfare of others, but also yours. The growth of your interior life and your personal holiness also depends upon your union with Christ.

Holiness. Perhaps this word seems to you in the present age to be an anachronism, a luxury, or a utopia. It is not. The present age with its limited vision, its errors, its contingencies, will pass away. The truth will remain. Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul said that it was the will of God that all Christians should be sanctified. Teresa of Avila, a doctor of the Church, was sure that anyone, even the man in the street, could reach the highest level of contemplation. The Second Vatican Council says that all people are called to be saints. These are reliable voices.

So see that in your life also you harvest "much fruit" for holiness, which will be possible only if you are united with Christ.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears much fruit, for cut off from me you can do nothing.

Have you observed how Jesus does not demand the fruit directly, but sees it as a consequence of remaining in union with him? It is possible that you too may fall into the errors in which many Christians find themselves: activism, works for the good of others, without ever having the time to consider whether in all they do, and by all they do, they are united to Christ. This is the error: to believe that you bear fruit, but it is not the fruit that Christ in you, Christ with you, would bear. To bear fruit which has the divine mark, which endures, it is necessary to remain united to Christ and the more you remain united to Christ the more fruit you will bear.

Moreover, this verb which Jesus uses, 'to remain', does not give the sense of a moment in which to bear fruit, but of a permanent condition of fruitfulness. In fact if you know people who live like this you will see that if only by a smile, by a word, by the normal activities of daily life, by their attitude in the various situations of life, they touch the heart gently, sometimes to make people find God again. Saints have lived like this.

But we must not be discouraged by this, because ordinary Christians can bear fruit. Listen to this:

You know that today the student world is largely politically motivated and leaves little space for those who wish to render service to humanity and are motivated by other ideals.

My story is set in in Portugal. Maria do Socorro left school and went to university. The atmosphere was difficult. Many of her companions were involved in political struggles following their own particular ideology, and everyone wanted to pull in the uncommitted students.

Maria knew where she stood but she did not find it easy to explain her way, which was to follow Jesus and remain united to him. Those companions who knew nothing of her ideas classified her as vague and without ideas. Sometimes her reputation in the eyes of the others suffered, especially when she went to church. But she continued to go, because she felt she had to remain united to Jesus.

Christmas came. Maria realised that some of her follow-students were not able to go home because they lived too far away, and she proposed to her other companions that they give presents to those not able to go. To her great surprise they all accepted at once.

Later there were elections and another marvel happened: she was elected to represent her year.

She was even more amazed when she heard them say, "Its logical to elect you, because you are the only one with a clear line, who knows what she wants and what to do to get it". Now a few are interested in her ideal and want to live n she does.

A good fruit of perseverance by Maria do Socorro, in remaining united to Jesus.

Chiara Lubich

 

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