On the Vine and the Branches

«Remaining always united to Jesus, relying on him, is indispensable»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today’s Gospel, for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, begins with the image of the vine. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser’” (John 15:1). Often in the Bible, Israel is compared to the fruitful vine when it is faithful to Israel; but if it turns away from God, it becomes sterile, incapable of producing “that wine that gladdens the heart of man,” as Psalm 104 (15) sings. The true vineyard of God, the true vine, is Jesus, who with his sacrifice of love grants us salvation, opens to us the path to becoming part of this vineyard. And as Jesus remains in the love of God the Father, the disciples too, wisely pruned by the word of the Master (cf. John 15:2-4), if they remain profoundly united to him, become fruitful branches that produce an abundant harvest. St. Francis de Sales writes: “The branch united and joined to the trunk bears fruit not by its own virtue, but by virtue of the trunk: now, by charity we have been united to the Redeemer, as members to the head; this is why … good works, taking their worth from him, merit eternal life” (“Treatise on Divine Love,” XI, 6).

On the day of our baptism the Church grafts us like branches onto the Paschal Mystery of Jesus; we are grafted onto his very Person. From this root we receive the precious lifeblood to participate in divine life. As disciples, we too, with the help of the Pastors of the Church, grow in the Lord’s vineyard, joined together by his love. “If the fruit we are to bear is love, its prerequisite is this ‘remaining,’ which is profoundly connected with the kind of faith that holds on to the Lord and does not let go” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” 262, San Francisco, 2008). Remaining always united to Jesus, relying on him, is indispensable, because without him we can do nothing (cf. 15:5). In a letter written to John the Prophet, a monk who lived in Gaza wilderness in the fifth century, a Christian asks this question: How can man’s freedom and the impossibility of doing anything without God go together? And John answers: If man inclines his heart toward the good and asks God for help, he receives the necessary help to do that which he does. Thus, man’s freedom and God’s power proceed together. This is possible because goodness comes from the Lord, but it is accomplished by his faithful (cf. Ep. 763, SC 468, Paris 2002, 206). The true “remaining” in Christ guarantees the effectiveness of prayer, as the Cistercian Blessed Guerric d’Igny says: “O Lord Jesus … without you we can do nothing. You in fact are the true gardener, creator, cultivator and protector of your garden, which you sow with your word, water with your spirit, make grow with your power” (Sermo ad excitandam devotionem in psalmodia, SC 202, 1973, 522).

Dear friends, each of us is as a branch that lives only if it is made to grow in its union with the Lord every day by prayer, by participation in the Sacraments, by charity. He who loves Jesus, the true vine, produces fruits of faith for an abundant spiritual harvest. Let us supplicate the Mother of God that we might remain firmly grafted onto Jesus and each of our actions have in him its sole beginning and completion.

[After the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters!

I would like first of all to recall that in less than a month the seventh International Meeting of Families will take place in Milan. I thank the Ambrosian diocese and the other Lombard dioceses who are working together for this ecclesial event promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, presided over by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli. I will also have the joy to participate, if it pleases God, and so for this I travel to Milan June 1-3.

[In English he said:]

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking visitors present for today’s Regina Caeli, and especially to the large group of pilgrims from Indonesia. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of himself as the true vine and he calls us to be fruit-bearing branches. I pray that God’s children all over the world will grow in unity and love, sustained and nourished by the divine life that he has planted deep within us. May God bless all of you!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday and a good month of May, in the spiritual company of Our Lady. Thank you! Have a good Sunday. I wish you all a good week.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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