John 15:1-8 Bearing Some Fruit
Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.”
The Lord demands from his disciples that they remain in him because “without me you can do nothing.” He was being nice. He should have said, “Without me you will do horrible things.” Yes, without the Lord, without being grounded, connected, attached or rooted in the Lord, we end up being some creepy crawler. Without the Lord, we end up falling to the ground and rotting away.
An apple is an apple regardless of whether or not it is on the tree or on the ground. While it is on the tree, it has the potential of bearing good fruit. But while it is on the ground, it has the potential of rotting away. What causes the fruit to fall? The wind. A storm. An animal. A disease. Gravity. Time.
A baptized individual remains a Christian their entire life. Baptism leaves an indelible mark on the soul. It cannot be removed, washed or tossed away. And if he fights the good fight, he will be welcomed as a Christian. If he falls to the ground, he may be welcomed as a bad Christian.
What causes a Christian to fall? Pride. Greed. Lust. Anger. Gluttony. Envy. Sloth. These seven deadly sins are just as brutal as the elements in nature. They are just as powerful as gravity and disease. They are forever near us and it is only a matter of time before we experience their powerful forces.
But like in the case of an apple, a Christian is a Christian no matter what. But a Christian can be just as rotten as an apple off a tree. I am the vine, you are the branches. Remain in me.
Remain in me. What exactly does it mean to remain in the Lord? It means to follow his commandments; to live his life every day of your life. It also means to reach out and to proclaim the Good News and the bad news to all who will listen. Is it possible? Of course! And we must do it.
We are all sinners. You hear this very often. It’s depressing. But the good news is that it is not true. We are not all sinners. Some of us have been redeemed. When we were baptized, we no longer were sinners. When we do a perfect act of Contrition we are no longer sinners. When we go to Confession we are no longer sinners. So why do we insist on calling ourselves sinners? Because it is an excuse for acting like a sinner! Stop making excuses for yourself. St. Paul referred to Christians as Saints. If he can do it, so can we. We were all born sinners. We don’t have to live like one. We don’t have to die like one.
We shouldn’t judge. That’s correct. But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean we have to keep our opinions, our Good News, or the Lord's Commandments to ourselves? Does it mean we cannot say to someone, "Hey, you're breaking a commandment?" Does it mean that we cannot speak boldly about sin or grace? Does it mean that we must turn a blind eye and turn the other cheek when it comes to teaching the faith of the Church? Does it mean we cannot criticize anyone? Of course not! The Lord, who was God and man, called Pharisees hypocrites. He told prostitutes to sin no more. He called a Syrophoenician woman a dog. He said of those who harm children, “that it would be better that they had never been born.” What the Lord does not want us to do is take over his job; specifically, to judge someone unworthy of salvation. He did not want us to become Pharisees and right people off. The Church has never sent anyone to Hell. The Church has never claimed that Judas, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao-tse-tung, Truman, Mohammad, or Buddha were in Hell. It doesn’t mean that some or all are not there, it means it’s not us to decide. That’s why the Lord says, “Do not judge AND do not condemn.” Does it mean the Church has no authority to tell men to be faithful to their wives? Does it mean the Pope has no authority to tell Melinda Gates that her four billion dollar contraceptive campaign is misguided and will kill unborn children? Of course not! The problem isn’t that we are saying these things. The problem is that we are not saying it enough. And for this reason, we are not bearing much fruit lately.
“[Go throughout the world and] proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations” (Ps 96). Alleluia!