Grapes need lots of care in the early years of its life aside from requiring lots of space. It also need lots of water especially early on and needs the sun to grow and bear fruit. Grapevines must be pruned regularly as it is an important step in raising grapes, “because it helps them produce a healthy crop of fruit and survive for many years.” When you see the pruning process, you can get surprised about how much of the vine get removed. From a leafy vineyard, about 85% is pruned off. This is because grapes are produced on new shoots, and not old branches. Caring for the vines spread from planting and throughout the seasons, year after year after year. I am familiar with these because when I was still an altar server in my hometown many years ago, I saw first hand how grapes were raised and cared of by the late Rev. Fr. Epifanio Codilla, our parish priest at that time. He utilized the vacant lot at the side of the Church.
For vineyard growers like Fr. Codilla and those familiar with it, the Lord’s use of this parable in today’s Gospel (Jn. 5: 1-8) is so powerful that it drives home the message of what it means to be an authentic discipleship of Christ. It created a fine example of how special our relationship with Him should be.
This intimacy with God is something much deeper than just complying with His Commandments. St. John exhorted us in the Second Reading (1 Jn. 3: 18-24),
“Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”
The fear of the Lord mentioned in verse 31 of the First Reading is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Described in the Novena to the Holy Spirit, it is one that “fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by sin”. This is borne out of love such that there’s a fear that arises that is “not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our Heavenly Father.” If you’ve been in love or is in love, you know what I mean. You don’t want to hurt the one that you love, right? This is the same fear of the Lord that we gain when we grow more in intimacy with God.
As we participate in the life of the Church, embrace the Sacraments, and get involved in the activities of our parishes, you realize that you do these not because you are retiring soon or have ample time now, but because of your fondness and love for Jesus. You realize that God deserves the primacy of our lives, not the remnants of our youthfulness. Our actions show our deep gratitude for the graces He has gifted us with, knowing that He is our Lord, Master and Creator. In the First Reading (Acts 9: 26-31), Barnabas reported to the apostles how Saul had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. From a persecutor of the disciples to a staunch defender of the Lord, Saul’s life completely turned around.
Our joy isn’t dependent on the absence of problems and difficulties. We remain joyful because we believe that whenever we are challenged, it is because we are being pruned, because it will help us produce a healthy crop of fruit and survive for many years. In my own personal experience, dependency on God is total, as in everything. This doesn’t mean though that I don’t do anything but in fact I have to do things as if everything depended on me, and pray as if everything depended on God. What Jesus said is real,
“Without Me you can do nothing.”
It’ll take humility to accept this fact and the gratitude to realize that we will cease to exist even if for just a brief moment God forgets us. His will for us to live is the same reason that gives us the capacity to breathe and live for today.
It is very comforting though that the Lord expressed one of the more inspiring verses in Sacred Scriptures found in today’s Gospel,
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”
Let us pray that we grow more in humility to appreciate that without God, we can do nothing. For every waking moment, let us always be grateful to God and say “thank you” for the grace overflowing in our lives.
“Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit. (Jn. 15: 4a, 5b)