Once upon a time, a man riding an old car ran into the exotic car of another man who happens to be wealthy and affluent. The poor man stopped and fell to the ground to beg the rich man who was busy calling him all sorts of names from being stupid and perpetually sanctioned to poverty to other things. The guy continued to plead for mercy, but the rich guy pays no attention to him, as he reaches out to his phone to call the police.
At the point of attempting to call in the police, the man begs him not to involve the police as he would even be ready to sell his old car to repair the damage. The guy’s suggestion came across as an insult to the rich man, and he interrupts him saying, “do I look like someone who needs anything at all not to mention money from your rickety old car.” He was still talking when a madman who had been watching replies him, “Sir, you need something, and this poor guy can give it to you.” The rich guy turns to the madman and says, “what the hell do I need from this man with an old broken car?” The madman turns and says to him “humility and understanding” and walks away. No one has everything; we are all in need.
One of my most significant takeaways from the study of philosophy is the principle of ontological dependence. The principle states that objects depend on others for existence not just in a casual sense but also in a logical sense. For instance, a child depends on the mother for survival. That means that the mother exists for the sake of the child. However, the mother is not sufficient as she also depends on another reality to exist. The list of a family of dependencies continues until we come to a being who does not depend on anyone to exist, that is our all-sufficient God.
The highpoint of the Gospel of this Sunday (John 15:1-8) is our Lord’s description of himself as the true vine and the indication of several qualities and implications for the branches that relate to the vine. We shall examine some of the relevant contents of the Gospel passage primarily as they relate to our dependence on God.
I am the TRUE vine. Here our Lord Jesus Christ suggests a distinction between the TRUE vine and other false vines or more appropriately, imitations of the true vine. In our lives, we are either true or false. Following the example our Lord Jesus Christ, there is the need for us to be true to our Christian vocation. Only the truth can set us free (John 8:32). Are you TRUE to what you are?
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. Fruit bearing is critical to every vine tree, and the fruits come from the branches. Every one of us is expected to bear not just fruit but also good fruits. In His justice, God cuts away the unfruitful branches and, in His love, He prunes, that is, he removes or cuts away the limitations and hindrances of the branches that are bearing fruits. Are you bearing fruits and what kind of fruit are you bearing?
Remain in me as I remain in you … without me, you can do nothing. There is no stage in the life of a branch that it would not need the parent tree; that means a branch can never be independent except it is no longer a branch. In our relationship with God, we always need that divine connection because our efficiency without divine sufficiency can only lead us to deficiency.
Often, we act like the rich man in our opening story who thinks that material wealth suffices for all our needs. The real wealth is our union with God, and the real poverty is the absence of God in our lives. The Second Reading today (1 John 3:18-24), tells us that we achieve union with Christ, the true vine, by keeping his commandment which is to love God and our neighbour (Matt. 22:36-40). We need this close link and connection with Jesus Christ every moment and every day of our lives for:
Without him, we shall lack peace (John 14:27)
Without him, we shall lack help (Heb. 13:6)
Without him, we shall lack provision (Phil. 4:19)
Without him, we shall lack joy (Psalm 126:2-3)
Without him, we shall lack hope (Psalm 39:7).
As we march into the fifth week of Easter, may we continue to maintain a strong and enduring attachment with our Lord without whom we can do nothing. Stay connected and retain your blessings.