Friday, August 26, 2005

The True Vine

I have a rather interesting little plant in my monastic cell. When it is watered, it drinks up the precious liquid very quickly and draws it through its stems and leaves with such vigor that it ends up with little drops of water suspended on the tips of its leaves. Almost as if there were too much for it to hold. (I don’t over-water it, really!) And if a leaf is freshly cut or damaged, the water appears around the wound.

It got me to thinking about Jesus’ image of the Vine and the branches. We have no life except in Him, but in Him we have such abundant life that we can scarcely hold it all in without overflowing. And if we are wounded, his grace flows to the place of pain to soothe and refresh it.

We are called not only to drink the Living Water of the Spirit that nourishes the branches of the Vine, but to overflow for others. “Abide in Me and I in you,” Jesus said (John 15:4), but to show that this mutual abiding is not a closed circle, He also said, “Love one another as I have loved you” (15:12). So as we drink, we overflow; as we receive his love we share it with others.

We have to be sure, however, that we are always drinking from the true Vine, because the world has its own bitter waters, which do not nourish but poison. What if I were to water my plant with salt water? It would soon wither up and die. Neither could I give it fresh water sometimes and salt water sometimes if I want it to live and be healthy. Divine grace comes from only one Source: the Heart of God, through his Church, the bearer and distributor of his word and sacraments. If we’re getting anything other than the love of God poured into our hearts or the wisdom of God into our minds, it’s coming from some other source. “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and salt water?” (James 3:11). We become what we feed ourselves (or allow ourselves to be fed). We can either become the body of Christ and bearers of his wisdom, or we can become products of a superficial, licentious, violent, and unbelieving world.

In which vine would you like to abide, of which would you be a branch? The “vine of Sodom” (Deut. 32:32), from which springs all manner of bitterness, vice, and warfare? Or the “true vine” (John 15:1), which provides the spiritual nourishment for bearing fruit unto eternal life? The choice may look obvious, but it is the way we actually live our lives, the choices we make every day, that proves which vine we truly belong to. To sin is to suck polluted water from the bitter soil in which “worldly” plants live. But remember, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted” (Mt. 15:13).

Abide in Jesus, the True Vine, and learn to love and forgive, and to walk in the light, as He is in the light. The Living Water of his grace will fill you to overflowing.