“What does it matter? Grace is everywhere.” [George Bernarnos, Diary of a Country Priest (1936)]. These are the last words of the unnamed Cure d’Ambricourt, the focus of this novel. He is dying at the age of 30 having just been made priest of a harsh, rural and depressing parish. He ends up being ministered to by a contemporary, a former priest from seminary whose life is a complete mess. Yet he says in all this overwhelming sense of gloom and frustration and waste “Grace is everywhere.”
John would agree. His image of the vine and vine-grower and branches encourages us to see that we can be those who are grafted onto the vine and through whom the sap, the grace of Jesus, can flow. When that happens, fruit grows. The oft-repeated word here is “abide.” It’s a slightly uncommon word. Another translation might be “remain.” Jesus seems to be saying that our role in all this is to keep connected with him. When we are, then we have a real sense that we are refreshed by his presence, that we cultivate a dependence on Jesus for life and that we belong to this amazing, growing, fruitful organism, the church.
What is going on here is a training manual for our heart and head. Our world values output. In this case, the output is grapes and the world labels someone successful who produces lots of grapes. That is not Jesus’ world. He values the quality of the output. In this image, the grapes worth seeing, the grapes worth tasting, are those that are fed through a branch that is in touch with the (true) vine.
The training is about learning to abide, to remain. This image can be a warning to us that we can become so busy that we forget to cultivate the habit of abiding on the Lord, of waiting on God. If we become so busy that we just get on with life and hope that God will catch up, then our fruit will taste, not of the Lord, but of our own sense of success.