The life of a Christian is one of service and humility, born in close association with Jesus Christ. The life of the Christian is to bear the good fruit of love, harvested in the many acts of charity, great and small. As a good fruit comes from ‘good stock,’ so the Christian must daily cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ. As St. Paul says, we must daily keep our eyes on Christ. (Hebrews 12:2) St. John speaks the more familiar phrase regarding the intimate closeness of Christ to us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. .. Remain in me, as I remain in you.” (John 15: 1,4)
The association with Christ is what brings the Christian to full maturity. As the sun is necessary day after day for the fruit to ripen, so the Christian walks in the Light of Christ. For the good fruit to grow to maturity, it remains free from damage by insects and infestations. So does Christ allow the Christian to enjoy health and growth in virtue by his or her close association with Christ. At a minimum, for fruit to mature, it must remain on the tree. Storms and strong winds can separate the fruit from the tree before it is truly ripe, thus the Christian learns to cling to Christ during the storms of life, trusting that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.’
“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? … No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-39)
The tree must be well cultivated and pruned. Part of this cultivation and pruning for the Christian means ‘ridding ourselves of every burden and sin’ (Hebrews 12:1). Jesus teaches that we can expect such pruning in our own life. “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (John 15: 2-3)
As another Lent approaches, let us begin even now taking stock of how closely we allow Christ to walk with us. Let us examine what in my life is in need of pruning; sinful patters of behavior, fear of the cross as it falls across the path of my own journey of faith. Let us not be afraid of the pruning of even ‘fruitful branches’ of my life in order that I may bear even more fruit. Perhaps I am too attached to some things or relationships. Do not be afraid to approach Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He longs to meet us there with the healing balm of His mercy.
The true Tree of Life is the Cross, and every mature Christian life passes through the Cross to fullness of life.
May each of us find the way to walk ever more closely with Christ, remain more fully within His Light, and rely more upon His Word and Wisdom than our own.