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June 2009

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart 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 for it is to wither and be burned.

Think what spiritual death awaits you if, as a Christian, you do not stay united to Christ. It's a frightening thought: complete sterility even if you work hard from morning till night, even if you think you are doing good things for humanity, even if your friends applaud you, even if your earthly goods increase, even if you make considerable sacrifices. All this may mean something for you on earth, but it has no significance for Christ and for eternity. And that's the life that really matters.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

How can you remain in Christ and Christ remain in you? How can you be a green and thriving branch, fully part of the body of 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 you must live in conformity with this faith, putting into practice the words of Jesus.

You cannot neglect those means of grace which Christ has left you, the means which make it possible to obtain or to reacquire unity with him, if maybe you have lost it.

Moreover, Christ will not feel that you are well joined to him unless you strive to be a real part of the Christian community, your local church.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

"Those who abide in me and I in them."

Do you see how Jesus speaks of your unity with him, but also of his unity with you? If you are united to him, he is in you. He is present in your innermost heart, and from this is born a relationship and a loving conversation together, a cooperation between Jesus and you, his disciple.

Look at the consequences: bearing much fruit, just as the branch fully united to the vine gives bunches of tasty grapes. "Much fruit" means that you will be gifted with fruitfulness in your witness to others, that is, with the ability to open the eyes of many to the unique, revolutionary words of Christ, and be able to give them the strength to follow them.

"Much fruit" also means you will be able to start, or to support, projects of different sizes for the relief of the many needs of the world, according to the gifts of the Spirit you have been given.

"Much fruit" means "much", not "little", and this could mean that you will be able to introduce among the people around you a current of goodness, of mutual love and of true communion.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

But "much fruit" does not only mean the spiritual and material well-being of others, but your own as well.

Your inner growth, and your personal holiness as well, depend on your union with Christ.

Holiness: perhaps the word seems to you in the present age to be old fashioned, pointless, merely wishful thinking. But it isn't.

The present age with its partial, false, limited vision will pass away. The truth will remain. Two thousand years ago, Paul the apostle said clearly that it was the will of God for all Christians to be sanctified. Teresa of Avila, a doctor of the Church, was certain that everyone, even someone just off the street, can reach the highest contemplation. And the Second Vatican Council declared that all the people of God are called to be saints.

These are reliable voices.

So see that in your life too you harvest the "much fruit" of holiness, which is possible only if you are united to Christ.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

Have you noticed how Jesus does not ask for the fruit directly, but sees it as a result of "abiding", of being united to him?

It's possible that you too fall into the mistake made by many Christians: activism and more activism, projects and more projects for the good of others, without taking 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 that will last, fruit that has the mark of something divine, it is necessary to abide united to Christ, and the more you abide united to Christ, the more fruit you will bear.

The very verb "abide" that Jesus used gives the idea not so much of moments in which you bear fruit, but rather of a permanent state of fruitfulness. Indeed, if you know people who live like this, you will see that if only by a smile, by a word, by an everyday kind of behaviour, by their attitude in a given situation, they touch other people's hearts even to the point of making them find God again.

The saints were like this. But even if we're not saints, we shouldn't be discouraged. Ordinary Christians too can bear fruit. Let me tell you a story.

You know that the students' world today1 is highly politicized and there's little room for those who wish to serve humanity from other motivations.

But this is what happened in Portugal. Maria do Socorro had finished school and just started at university. The atmosphere was quite tense. Many of her companions were involved in political disputes following their own ideologies and trying to win over the students who were as yet uncommitted.

Maria knew where she stood, even though it was not easy to explain her way to others. She wanted to follow Jesus and remain united to him. Her friends, who knew nothing of her ideas, labelled her wishy-washy, a girl without ideals. At times she could feel what everyone thought, especially when they saw her going to church. But she went just the same, because she felt she had to remain united to Jesus.

Christmas was coming. Maria realised that some of the students could not go home because they lived too far away. She suggested that the other students get together and give them presents. To her great surprise all agreed right away.

Later there were elections and another big surprise awaited her: she was elected as representative of her year. Her amazement was even greater, however, when she heard them say: "It was only logical to elect you, because you're the only one with a clear line. You know what you want, and what to do to get it." Now some of them want to find out more about the ideal of her life and to live it with her.

This is the fruit of Maria do Socorro's perseverance in remaining united with Jesus.

Chiara Lubich

1. This was first published as the Word of Life for February 1979


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