It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.” The power of the Resurrection, the continuing life of our Risen Lord, is demonstrated in the fruitfulness of the Church. The Old Testament frequently identified Israel as God’s chosen vine, a vine that, despite God’s loving care, had failed to bear fruit in lives that were pleasing to God.
When Jesus changed this long tradition to describe himself as the vine, with ourselves as the branches, he raised us to a new understanding of what we have become, and what we can achieve, through his Resurrection. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.”
His Risen life sustains us as the vine gives life to its branches. In him who is risen, lives that were once barren bear fruit in plenty. His faith, his hope, his love and his mercy abound in us.
At a time when Pope Francis has called the whole Church to a Year of Mercy, we can have a sure hope that this invitation will bear fruit in our lives. St John had the same confidence when he called us to a love that is not just words, but something that is real and active.
Because the mercy of the Father has called us into communion with Christ his Son, we can be sure that the Father’s mercy lives in us. We can be certain that, in proclaiming and bringing God’s mercy to our world, the Father lives in us, and we in the Father.
The Acts of the Apostles describe the early Church as something more than mere words. Its life became the abundant fruit of the Resurrection. In St Paul we see conversion and repentance as the first fruit of the Resurrection. Paul, once the fierce persecutor of the Resurrection, carried its good news to the ends of the earth.
Paul saw his life as the fruit of Christ’s Resurrection. He no longer struggled for an elusive perfection from within himself. All he wanted to know was Christ and the power of his Resurrection. Such perfection came, not from himself, but from the Christ who lived in him. If we, with Paul, allow Christ to live in us, then the first fruit of his Resurrection will be a continuing conversion in our own lives. Again and again we will be reminded that nothing comes from ourselves alone. Our hope will come to nothing unless we are one with Christ as the branch is one with the vine.
Pope Francis has called us to a Year of Mercy, a mercy that sinful humanity can never find in itself. Again we must return to the words of the Lord. Cut off from him we can do nothing. When we remain in him, and he in us, our lives become the fruit of his mercy.
This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (1/5/15).
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