If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask for what you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified…Abide in me as I abide in you.
This Sunday the Church continues to unfold the grace of the paschal mystery for us. A new image appears today in the Gospel. Jesus has spoken already of the good shepherd who is ready to sacrifice his life for his sheep. Jesus has spoken of the seed that needs to fall into the soil and to die in order for it to produce any fruit, fruit up to a hundred fold. Now Jesus speaks here of another familiar image, the vineyard.
Certainly now in Virginia these past twenty-five years and more, the image of vineyards has become most familiar. Recently our neighbors in Bluemont, who are cultivating natural vegetable farming on our rich bottomlands along the River, are considering planting grape vines on our land as well.
If a branch breaks away from the vine, it’s going to wither and die for it has no nourishment to keep it alive. It has no roots. It’s good for nothing but a bonfire–unless you’d want to craft it into a decorative wreathe…
Jesus’ words to us strike home: Remain in me…Abide in me…as I remain in you. Get what he’s saying here. Jesus never said, “If you remain in me, then I will come and remain in you.” He’s always there before we are. Remain in me as I remain in you. Do for me what I’m already doing for you. Will you reciprocate what I do?
As the Psalmist said so many centuries ago, But my people did not hear my voice and Israel would not obey, so I left them in their stubbornness of heart, to follow their own designs. Those words are found in Psalm 81, God’s lament over his people. What was true back then is just as true now. We, too, are God’s people, baptized in Christ but we are no better than our ancestors! Oh that my people would heed me, that Israel would walk in my ways…I would feed them with the finest wheat and fill them with honey from the rock. A beautiful psalm, so full of deep pathos, so true to human experience!
Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a [dead] branch and wither…[but] if you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. Just as Psalm 81 says, Let there be no foreign God among you, no worship of an alien God. I am the Lord your God…open wide your mouth and I will fill it, the Gospel tells us, Ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
What the Psalmist sang hundreds of years earlier, Jesus says to his followers–God’s message will not change. The Holy One who abides with us will fulfill the desire of anyone who will abide with him. We must remain in him as he remains in us. Ask and you shall receive–if you but remain in him. For anyone who does abide in God will ask only for what God desires for us. Not any selfish craving or self-seeking but only what will be best in God’s eyes.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it, God promises through the Psalmist. And then we hear Jesus proclaim in the Sermon on the Mount, Would one of you hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf or a serpent when he asks for a fish?…how much motre will your heavenly Father give good things to anyone who asks him?
Abide in me as I abide in you…[then] ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. Believe Jesus and pray.