My father, an avid gardener, told me one time about a cucumber plot he had planted:He had been very careful to select the best seeds, and plant each one at its proper depth. He fertilized and watered the plants, he worked the soil faithfully each week to prevent weeds from encroaching and he sprayed to prevent bugs and blights from afflicting the young plant.
The season was a good one – just the right amount of rain and sunshine, and on the vines appeared broad green leaves and in due course the blooms. It looked magnificent.
One day he noticed that here and there certain leaves were dying, certain blooms fading. Most of the leaves remained a healthy glossy green, but scattered among them were those turning brown. Why, he wondered, would some die in the midst of all the living? So he investigated.
Stepping carefully among the tangled mass of vines he traced the ones on which the leaves and blooms were dying, until he found that they were all connected to a single stem. There, just above the ground, cut-worms had severed the stalk. The entire vine above that point was dying because it was no longer attached to the roots and the stem that had produced it.
It is a common tale – but it is an instructive one.
This Sunday’s Gospel is about pruning and bearing fruit. Bearing fruit requires pruning. The pruning tool is the Word of the Son. His word teaches us and guides us. Allowing this word to shape us brings forth a life-giving relationship with Jesus that assures abundant and good fruit.
Our life flows from Christ’s life. We are grafted onto him, receive our life from him and are shaped as faithful disciples by his word.
Remaining in Christ has its demands. To remain in Christ means that we live as Jesus lived-in deed and truth. Being the branch grafted onto Christ’s life is very real and demands that we allow ourselves to be pruned.
This is what Easter is all about: new life in Christ.