Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Vine and Branches

In today's gospel (John 15: 1-8) Jesus says "I am the vine, you are the branches."  It is another way of talking about the Body of Christ.  St. Paul wrote about our union with Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 where he said: "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ" (v. 12). Through Baptism we are made one with Christ, the Head of the Body. The Eucharist nourishes and sustains that union.   
I've heard this many times but when I consider what this actually means, it's mind-boggling.  Pope Benedict XVI certainly understood the implications of this.   

On September 22, 2011 in his homily in Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Germany, he said the following about the image (better, the reality) of the vine and the branches: 

In the parable of the vine, Jesus does not say: “You are the vine”, but: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:5). In other words: “As the branches are joined to the vine, so you belong to me! But inasmuch as you belong to me, you also belong to one another.” This belonging to each other and to him is not some ideal, imaginary, symbolic relationship, but – I would almost want to say – a biological, life-transmitting state of belonging to Jesus Christ. Such is the Church, this communion of life with Jesus Christ and for one another, a communion that is rooted in baptism and is deepened and given more and more vitality in the Eucharist. “I am the true vine” actually means: “I am you and you are I” – an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, with his Church.
He went on to explain that St. Paul learned this "unprecedented identification" of Christ with his followers from Jesus himself when he appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Jesus asked St. Paul when he was persecuting him, not his followers or his Church, but him.  Jesus is one with his baptized followers just as the parts of the body are one with the head and form one person. 

Pope Benedict said a similar thing in his closing homily at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany.  Talking about the transformation that occurs when we receive Holy Communion, he said:
The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own Flesh and Blood. We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one.

Have you ever thought of yourself as the very "Flesh and Blood" of Christ?  We are.  It's an awesome thought and an even more awesome challenge to live out that reality in a practical way one day at a time.  We can't do that on our own by some super-human effort of our own. Jesus said as much when he said "without me you can do nothing."  But as branches joined to the vine, we will "bear much fruit."  That's what living the Eucharist in our daily lives means.



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