The image of the Risen Christ as the true vine beautifully describes those who have been brought to new life as his living branches. As the branch is sustained by the vine, so are we sustained by the love that flows from Christ’s death and Resurrection. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love.”
We long to love and be loved, and cling to the love that we have found. Above all, we fear that we might be abandoned. Jesus reassured his disciples that already they lived in a love that would not be taken from them.
“I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his mater’s business. I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.”
There can be no greater joy than the knowledge that, despite our many failings, we are truly loved. This was the joy promised by Jesus to his disciples. “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.” The joy of knowing that we already live in the Father’s love transforms our lives. It is a joy that cannot be contained, that must be shared with others. What has been conceived in love will bear fruit in love. “You did not choose me, no, I chose you and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last. What I command you is to love one another.”
Christ’s Resurrection bears fruit in the Church to the extent that we become the bearers of such love to our world. In summoning the Church to a Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is calling on us to become living signs of a compassionate love. A purely human love has its own frailty and limitations. The love that has been entrusted to us in Christ’s Resurrection knows no such limits. “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God, and everyone who loves is begotten by God and comes from God.”
The Acts of the Apostles describes a Church whose love reached beyond the prejudices and divisions of its day. In a world which clung to a strict segregation between Jew and Gentile, Peter broke through the boundaries of convention to baptise the Gentile Cornelius. In so doing, he opened the Church to the whole world.
Let us pray that the love of Christ, alive in the Church, might bear fruit in a spirit of welcome and compassion, love and understanding. Above all, let us pray for a love that has the courage to reach beyond its own boundaries.
This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (8/5/15).