Recently I read an article about some scientists who were researching the genetics of different plants. Plants have very complicated DNA, with several copies of some genes rather than two copies as have most mammals, one copy from each parent. But when they sequenced the genes from one plant, they were astounded to see how simple it was. This plant had lost copies of many genes that all plants have, including even the genes for leaves, roots, and chlorophyl, the pigment that plants use for photosynthesis. What makes it even more interesting is that the plant they were studying is a parasite of other plants, specifically of certain tropical vines, and that it grew undetected amongst the host plant tissue until it blossomed with a huge flower, the largest flower in the world, about 3 feet across and weighing over 15 lbs.
This came to mind when I was sitting with this week’s scriptures, specifically when Jesus tells his disciples “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower”. Why specify that he is the ‘true’ vine? Are there false vines also?
I think the answer is no, there are no false vines. Jesus is the one, unique source of all life and truth. No false vines but there are things that look like vines, and instead of giving life they bring death. We will call these anti-vines. Anti-vines have no existence on their own, they exist only as opponents to life.
Jesus, the one true vine, is the one true source of life. It is he who nourishes us, breathes life into us, allowing us to grow. We exist in him and he in us, not as foreign parasites, but as parts of one organism. You can not distinguish between Jesus and his Church. They are the same being. When we remain one with Jesus, we remain one with the Church. This is the great unity that Christs wishes for us.
You cannot logically remain in the anti-vine because it does not exist except as an opposite. It would be like being joined to a shadow instead of the solid object that casts the shadow. Since there is nothing to remain in, the anti-vine brings disunity and separation.
Being part of the true vine allows us to be fruitful. What is the fruit that Jesus the vine wants from us? I looked at what some commentators listed as the fruits of remaining in Jesus- the fruits that he expects from us. They mentioned obedience, righteousness, right worship, and giving glory. I think that is putting things backwards. Those things are holy and desirable, yes, because they are the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. They can not be the fruit that Jesus means when he says “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit” since the Trinity itself bears those fruits.
The fruit that Jesus desires us to bear is the one thing he cannot, or will not, give us or demand from us. It is our self. It is our very self, returned to Jesus as a free gift from us to our creator. It is ourselves remaining in him. When we do that, individually, each one of us, we bear the sweetest and only fruit that God desires.
It is a fruit that bears more fruit since togetherness in God means togetherness with each other. It means seeing each other not as ‘other’ but as part of ourself, you as precious to me as I am to God.
The anti-vine bears no fruit. Instead of giving life it depletes it, living an anti-life by hacking into the source of life and perverting it. It hides amongst the fibers of the vine, sometimes almost indistinguishable from the holy fibers of the true vine. As far as the true vine stretches across the world, the anti-vine accompanies it, because it was born at the Eastern gate of Eden.
So we, descendants of Adam who till the ground, must remain ever vigilant for the presence of the anti-vine. We attack its roots as well as its branches. We are careful in what we cultivate and fertilize lest we inadvertently encourage the anti-vine, which we know it by its fruits- pride, greed, lust, envy, and wrath. Where the true vine is flourishing, we know it by the love it bears.
The parasitic vine I mentioned earlier has the scientific name Rafflesia arnoldii. The giant flower it brings forth does not attract bees or hummingbirds to pollinate it. The flower smells like rotting meat and so it attracts flies, carrion flies. It is fitting I think to use this plant, created as it is by our good God, as a metaphor of the anti-vine. The fruit of the true vine is sweet and attractive to entice others of us to remain in Jesus. The fruit of the anti-vine attracts decay and filth.
Why then are we so attracted to the anti-vine when it promises only death and decay? Our senses are deadened, we are blind and can not even taste the sweetness of life due to our infection with sin. We are tempted by a whisper in our ear when we cannot even hear the glorious choirs of angels. Christians, regain the spiritual sight that is your birthright through baptism. Reject Satan and all his works, and all his empty promises. Recognize to whom is due your fidelity and love.
Jesus said: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”