Wednesday the 5th Week of Easter
In his Rule for Monks, St Benedict describes the monastery as “a school for the Lord’s service”, and describes the goal as “our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love”. In this respect, the monastery is like an adult education program, at the end of which, all of us will be examined on love. St John of the Cross put it this way, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”
When we find ourselves face to face with God, he won’t ask us how much wealth we have accumulated, how many professional titles we obtained, how much influence we had. He will ask us how much we loved others, how much we gave of ourselves, how much we were able to overcome our self-centeredness and make use of our capacity to love that each one of us has received.
In the Gospel this morning, Jesus does not give us a definition of love. Instead, he gives a description of the vine and the branches and says that a branch cannot bear fruit on its own. You cannot become a loving person all by yourself. It is contact with love that makes you loving, just as the branch that remains on the vine bears fruit. Whoever remains in Jesus learns what love is at its source: Jesus, the true vine.
But it is also possible to learn from the branches since the same Spirit of love runs through the vine and the branches. The branches that bear much fruit, who love much, bring glory to the Father who is the vine grower, because they make it possible for others to love by coming into contact with their fruitful lives. The example of loving people reminds us of God, the Father who pruned them so that they could bear more fruit. The Father is glorified when we love much and show by that, that we are disciples of Jesus.
Love is what forms communities because it makes us go out of ourselves and live like the good people we love. It moves us to make their thoughts and feelings our own, to share in their lives, and so become one with them. In that way, admiration invites imitation. Branches who remain part of Jesus, the true vine, bear fruit in lives of love, and form clusters of branches that give glory to the Father.
The great lesson that Jesus teaches in this morning’s Gospel is that we are to love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. This is how we shall know that we remain branches of the vine, bearing much fruit by deeds of love. All who do so will share in the paschal mystery as described by St Benedict: “Never swerving from God’s instructions, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. Amen”.