In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “Remain in Me, as I remain in you.” (John 15:4) And He also said, “Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)
Exactly how are we to remain in Jesus, and how is He to remain in us? If you go on the internet and search for answers to that question, you will find many interesting and inspirational answers. But Jesus Himself already answered that question for us. He said, “Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me and I in him.” (John 6:56)
To remain in Jesus and to have Jesus remain in us is to have a close, personal, relationship with Him. The answer to the question of how to have and maintain that close personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus, is the Holy Eucharist; the most precious gift that our Savior could possibly have given us, the gift of His very self.
Twenty-three percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as being Catholic. Of those who identify themselves as being Catholic, only twenty-two percent say they attend Mass at least once a week. Twenty-one percent say they attend Mass once a month. And fifty-seven percent say that they attend Mass a few times, or less, per year. (CARA, February 2017)
Of those Catholics who do attend Mass, only forty-three percent say they receive communion every time they attend Mass. Seventy-seven percent say that they receive communion some of the time. And seventeen percent say they never receive communion. (Pew Research Center, September 2015)
Those are sad statistics. Why isn’t everyone who has been called to the faith accepting the free gift, the Bread of Life, that Jesus offers? Jesus stated the facts very clearly. Our Heavenly Father is the gardener, Jesus is the vine and we are branches on that vine. If we remain firmly attached to the vine, we will receive the nourishment that we need to produce abundantly. If we detach ourselves from the vine, we would lose our source of nourishment and, as such, it would become impossible for us to produce anything.
But what are we supposed to produce? A branch on a grape vine, for example, produces fruit simply by remaining attached to the vine. The nourishment that it receives from the vine flows through the branch and it produces fruit simply by participating in the natural process. Each and every one of us was created with our own unique set of gifts and talents. Our job in life, our only job, is to bear fruit using the gifts and talents we’ve been given. Nourished by the vine, and allowing those God given gifts and talents to flow through us, our fruit will also be produced and grow automatically.
Think of it this way. Assume, just for a minute, that you are a branch on a grapevine. You look over and see a branch on another plant producing beautiful red apples. Your grapes are pretty small in comparison to those big red apples; so you decide to detach yourself from the vine so that you can produce some of those big beautiful apples yourself. How much success do you think you will have detached from the vine?
Our job is not to compare ourselves with what those other branches are doing. Our job is to do the job that we were created to do; and we do that by maintaining our attachment to the vine that nourishes us.
Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. Our nourishment is the Holy Eucharist. We can attempt to do things on our own, and statistics indicate that a lot of people who call themselves Catholic are attempting to do just that. But remember, Jesus did say, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Our Gospel concludes with Jesus saying, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit.” (John 15:8) But how is our Heavenly Father glorified by the fruit that we produce? I found an excellent answer to that question in a book I recently read. The author said, “When someone sculpted a great work of art – God received the praise. If someone painted a lovely picture – God received the glory; because the people knew that their talents and abilities were originally given to them by God. God was proud of each and every one of them.” (Rhonda Mitchell, from Chapter Three of, “Heaven is Beyond Your Wildest Expectations.”) Imagine the pride and joy that our Heavenly Father would feel if every one of His children would remain attached to the vine and simply do what they were created to do. To God be the praise!