“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” (John 15:5-6)
Recently on The Inner Life, Patrick Conley welcomed Fr. Bobby Blood onto the show to discuss how we can stay close to God, even when it’s difficult and seems like He isn’t sticking by us.
Father Blood began the conversation by joking that Jesus uses a lot of agricultural parables and analogies and most of us aren’t farmers. But the analogy used here is an accessible one because the idea is universal to most plants: Many plants have bases and stems or trunks that extend and multiply into smaller branches or leaves. While those branches are a part of the whole and can grow while attached to the base, they cease growing and will in fact die if they separate from the base.
That growth and production of fruit is analogous to our apostolate and spiritual life. Unless our intentions stem from God Himself, our efforts are worthless and will accomplish nothing. Patrick pointed out that it doesn’t take a vintner to see the connection: When a branch is removed from its source of life, it dies pretty quickly.
Father Blood said that while it might be easy to see the analogy, it’s not quite as easy to see how we can apply this to our own lives in our own struggles. He said we should pay attention to the context of the parable; it was said at the Last Supper as the Lord attempted to prepare His apostles for their mission without Him. “And with that, He’s telling the apostles, ‘Stay close to me. Stay so close to my mission. And from there, you’re going to experience the sort of freedom and fullness that we’ve been talking about.’”
So practically, staying close to Jesus may commonly mean slowing down our lives. Stop running from one thing to the next trying to “keep the plates spinning”. Productivity is a good thing, but if we become so inundated with activity, we lose sight of what’s important. Father Blood suggested instead of running around, we should remember to keep our feet planted sometimes and really, consciously take note of what our mission for God is at this moment.
“Plates are going to fall. It’s going to be okay. If we’re with Christ, even in the midst of temptation, pain, suffering, sin, it’s going to be okay and we won’t be separated from that Father we love.”
As soon as we lose touch with the Father, those times of hardship and struggle begin to crash over us like a wave. We no longer have refuge or that shield to cover us. We can try as hard as possible and do everything perfectly, but at the end of the day, we will still be underachieving and unimpressed because we won’t be doing what we’re supposed to. We’ll be disconnected from our objective.
Growing disconnected from Our Lord rarely happens in one grand moment, as Father Blood pointed out. It’s often a slow drift that’s catalyzed by challenge after challenge that’s sent our way. “The more we have those little challenges thrown at us, the easier it is to say, ‘I don’t know if it’s worth the fight.’” Before sliding entirely into ignorance of God, it begins with lukewarmness, fear of confrontation, and laziness.
The key point when facing these challenges, Father Blood says, is to evaluate the way we handled them in the past. Did we remain in conversation with the Lord as we faced that struggle? Did we look to Him for guidance and strength? Or did we try to buckle down and do it ourselves? It’s there that we find we are ill-equipped and our branch has fallen from the vine.
Tune in to The Inner Life, weekdays at 11am CT