The vine is a source of life

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

Our Scripture images this weekend are filled with vines and grapes. If you carefully look around your church you may be surprised by the many places you will begin to see vines and clusters of grapes. The grapevine is a popular motif for windows, for plaster edging around pillars and for use on vestments or etched into vessels used for holy Communion.
We know that this image was brought into our Catholic faith by Jesus himself, for he said,“I am the vine and you are the branches …” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The church is a cultivated field … a choice vineyard, (it) has been planted by the heavenly cultivator” (n. 755).

It stands to reason that Jesus would have chosen something very familiar to the people of this time to make his point. Wine was the staple during Jesus’ time, and the hills around Palestine were filled with vineyards. People understood the close, permanent, vital union between the vine and branches. It was an everyday occurrence to see vines being tended, branches being pruned or grapes being harvested and crushed to make wine.

We no longer have to travel to Napa or the East Coast to see vineyards. Many local wineries are scattered throughout Wisconsin. Perhaps you should make a “pilgrimage” to a local winery and study the grapevine. Consider what it can teach you about Jesus, the true vine and your role as one of the branches.

Note how the vine is the source of life for the branches. It provides water and nutrients to produce grapes. Without the vine, no fruit could ever result. Branches are utterly dependent upon the vine, just as we are dependent upon Jesus if we are to bear fruit.

You may see pruning taking place. Unfruitful branches are considered worthless and, if left on the vine, they sap needed energy. It is understandable that these branches are cut off and thrown away. However, pruning is also done to good branches to enhance branch production. This process should help us to see that discipline is needed in our lives if we are going to give fruitful service to Christ.

As you look at the beautiful cluster of grapes hanging on the vines remember that, to serve their best purpose, the grapes will need to be cut from the vine, pressed down, purified and then bottled. The good news for us is that Jesus calls us to be people of love, and love cannot be bottled up and contained. Love should pour forth from us like good, rich wine.

Which brings me to a logical conclusion: let your winery pilgrimage not only fill you with spiritual reflection, but also lead you to the wine tasting room for a sample. Let it remind you that in the words of composer David Hass, we are to be a good wine, a sign of God’s love, poured forth and flowing freely (“Jesus, Wine of Peace”).

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.