Today’s gospel reading (John 15: 1-8) is the familiar story of the vine and the branches. Sometimes when we encounter scripture stories or verses that are familiar to us, we shut down, failing to listen, because we already know the story well enough. Sadly, when we do this, we miss what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us in the scripture. We close our hearts to God and separate ourselves from the life-giving vine.
Jesus gives us sage advice in this scripture when He tells us, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” Sometimes it is hard to truly know that Jesus is “remaining” with us. It is so easy to put human characteristics on Jesus, distrust Him, and think He will surely abandon us. Distrust and fear of abandonment are two of the biggest issues many of us deal with on a regular basis. Jesus knows this and has experienced all of the same difficulties. It was not too long ago that we read the passion narrative during holy week and saw Judas abandon Jesus. Imagine how Jesus felt when Judas, a constant companion who traveled with him for three years, betrayed and handed him over to certain death. Surely Jesus was deeply hurt by Judas just as we are hurt when someone betrays our trust and walks away from a close personal relationship. Often, we are left with the burning question in our heart, “What am I to do?” “How do I overcome these feelings of loss?” “Will the relationship ever be the same?” It is at these times in life that the advice Jesus gave today of remaining in him is the most important advice we could ever receive.
If we remain in Jesus, we keep Him in our hearts; we look only to Him, rely only on Him, we will never be disappointed or abandoned. Remaining in Jesus, seeking only Him to guide everything we do in life, is the best way to avoid the deep pain of abandonment. Nothing will hurt us deeply if Jesus has the dominant role in our lives, if He truly reigns as King of our hearts. Jesus is the safe bet, the sure thing, the One who will always be present. Jesus remains with us and asks of us a simple request, “Remain in me…” because He knows what happens when we don’t and He so desperately wants us to find wholeness, peace and joy in this life and be with Him in the next.