A well-kept and appealing landscape takes many hours of work. Left without care, the shrubs become unkempt, the grass looks like hay, the flowers become leggy. Cutting back, cutting down, cutting away is what brings out the beauty of a landscape. This kind of work is more than a matter of simple tidiness. It shows that the people who live on the property care. In the gospel, Jesus metaphorically speaks of his Father’s pruning us branches who are attached to the vine who is Jesus. God’s care for us underlies the oft-repeated gospel words remain, fruit, vine, branch.
Just as God planted and tended the true vine Jesus, so does God tend us—prune us—so that we, too, might “bear much fruit.” God prunes from us whatever does not give life, and nourishes within us whatever does. Our remaining in Jesus, our bearing fruit as disciples, our believing in the Son and keeping the commandments (see second reading) are all the work of the Father who tends with great care the risen Life we share with Jesus.
The pruning of which Jesus speaks in this gospel is simply a means to an end. The end is the bearing of much fruit. To this end, Jesus’ word has a twofold purpose. On the one hand, his word is prophetic and prunes whatever drains life out of his disciples. On the other, his word is the very sap of life that enables disciples to remain in him and bear fruit. True discipleship is to “remain” in Jesus. Only then does his risen Life bloom in us for all to see.
Part of our living the paschal mystery—its dying and rising—requires that we be willing to be pruned. We must allow God to tend us, so that we might rid ourselves of whatever gets in the way of our being a faithful disciple who not only proclaims the Gospel, but also lives it in “deed and truth.” First of all, this means that we must witness to an intimate relationship with God. We do this through prayer and worship—both private and public acts of glorifying God. We also witness in “deed and truth” through how we relate to others. Taking someone troubled under our wing to help them is but one example of how we remain in Jesus through our caring for others.