Years ago I lived in California and traveled to the Napa Valley wine country. My first trip there was during the dry season and the vines were just bare, dark brown vines. They seemed to be lacking life and did not seem very beautiful. A few months later I traveled to Napa again, this time during the growing season. It was truly beautiful! The vines were full of green leaves and many colored grapes. The air smelled fresh and fragrant with new growth. The area was full of vitality and beauty.

If I was told during my first trip to believe in the transformation which could take place during the growing season, I could not have imagined the metamorphosis that would take place after the vines had been pruned and fertilized.

Today’s gospel offers a similar experience. Jesus shares his love with us by asking us to remain one in him, by allowing our Lord to prune us so we may grow and flourish. We need to trust him and become one with him. If we believe in him and receive his body and blood in the Eucharist, we are united with him. He nourishes us with eternal life. But if we do not unite with our Lord by receiving the Eucharist and listening to his words, we are nothing. We are not nourished and wither on the vine. We become like the vine that cannot bear fruit, dead and useless, firewood.

Do you long to hear our Lord’s words–do you want to receive the Eucharist? Or do you think you can grow on your own?

—Bob Thomas is Executive Director and CEO of Rainbows for All God’s Children, Evanston IL