“I am the vine; you are the branches”

John 15:5

Thursday 6 May 2021

John 15:1-8

Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. I wonder if, at times, we think of ourselves as the vine and that, actually, it is all up to us? When we do subconsciously believe that we are the vine – that we are in control – we are so easily tempted to think that it is all up to us.

It is spiritually dangerous (and damaging!) to assume that we are somehow in control, that it is all up to us. We cling to certain perceptions of perfection and hold ourselves and others ransom to that perception. We go on guilt trips – and put others on guilt trips – when we cling to our false notions and ideas about God. I am sometimes amazed at how many people scrupulously believe that the crucifixion of Jesus is a direct result of their sins alone. “My sins killed Jesus” people sometimes say. This is not completely incorrect but it is also not entirely the full story either. How could our sins take down the Lord of the universe? While guilt can sometimes lead to positive change and conversion it can also lead to scruples and death of the spiritual life. Notice that, when we do think like this, the focus is not on the vine but the single branch, us!

There is something else worth considering. Sometimes we are so focussed on our own ideas of perfection and what God wants (without actually asking God!) that we can slip into unconsciously thinking and acting as if we were God. We think, arrogantly, that we know the mind of God.

Jesus invites us to recognise that we are the mere branches and he is the vine. He invites us to grow in sync with the vine and not think we are independent branches. He invites us to trust in the steadiness of his ‘gardening hand’ which will give the branches the necessary nourishment and care that they need. He invites us to allow the deeply rooted vine to determine the shape and length of the branch.

Our task is not to be perfect, our task is to remain in Jesus and allow him to shape and form us so that he can do good within us and through us.

When have I burdened myself and others with unnecessary guilt because I have a false perception of perfection and God?

Am I tempted to think that I know the mind of God?

Ask the Lord today to let him shape you into the branch he wants and not the one you think you ought to be.

Lord Jesus,

You are the vine, and I am a branch.

Help me to remain rooted in you, the vine, and not think that it is all up to me.

Prune my false images of God and misplaced perception of perfection.

I want you, the divine gardener, to shape and form me.

Amen.

 
Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
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