I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will remain. – John 15:16 </span id=”2″>

The Scriptures for the 26th and 27th Sundays in Ordinary Time lead us into the vineyard. The reality of working in a vineyard is challenging. Planted in alignment within areas completely clear of stone, vineyards must be protected from predators by erecting thick hedges. Once established, the vineyard is to be meticulously tendered by weeding, pruning and trimming. Left untended, the grapes will grow wild.  

God invites us into his vineyard through the waters of baptism. He chooses us to help cultivate, maintain and bear good fruit within the “hedges” of his love and mercy. The readings convey three aspects of how to bear lasting fruit resulting in the peace of God. 

Repent and remember  

The prophet Ezekiel writes, “Turn away from sin and live, else you shall die.” The fruit of sin is death, a separation from God. The fruit of holiness is life, union with God. Sin is a reality of life. We work hard to remain sinless, and this is good. But when we choose to sin, we choose to stop living. In the vineyard we are cleaved to Jesus (“I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:5)). Repentance begins when the “vine,” fertile with grace, awakens our conscious and allows us to taste the sour fruit, our sin. The moment this distaste is experienced is the moment we realize we need to stop, turn around and run, yes, run back to God.  

This is a “vineyard moment:” the turning away from being a “wild grape” to becoming a fruitful grape. The Lord, from whom unfathomable mercy and love flows, restores the grace through our sorrowful heart and a good sacramental confession. Grace once again fortifies the branches and restores sweetness to our soul.  

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Remaining fruitful  

We can remain fruitful if we remain in Jesus. The fruitfulness of our lives can be guided by an imitation of Christ. We hear in the Letter to the Philippians, “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus …” (2:5) St. Paul reminds us to be unselfish, let go of anxiety, think positively and seek what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious. All of these assist in living life as Jesus.  

Thomas Kempis writes in his book, “The Imitation of Christ:” “ ’He that follows me shall not walk in darkness,’ says the Lord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far we must imitate his life and character, if we seek true illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart.  Let it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life of Jesus Christ.”  

The more we imitate Christ, the more fruit we shall bear. As with Christ, this imitation is to be done with ultimate humility and complete obedience to God’s will. For just as Jesus “emptied himself” to the will of the father, we too should have as an end-in-mind the glory of God. We ask, “Is what I am doing for God’s glory or for mine?” As we hear St. Paul proclaim, “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).  

Bent But Unbroken  

Those who choose to imitate Christ remain cleaved to the strength of his vine. Yet there will be times when wickedness will come along and attempt to break off the branches and destroy the fruit. As with Jesus’ passion, we may be bent, but we will remain unbroken. Recall the saints who have endured the battle in the vineyard. Some experienced martyrdom, while others died of natural causes. Either way, their fruit continues to glorify God to this day because of their commitment to the imitation of Christ. The Lord has chosen us to go and bear fruit that will last. Ask yourself, “Is what I am doing today, going to glorify God tomorrow? Am I producing life-giving fruit?”  

Dow is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.