The Gospel of John (14) holds this truth for us--
"Jesus said to his disciples: 'I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you."
Had not really noticed so very much the line that the Father takes away every branch that does not bear fruit. Is that not stark? It is, indeed, and Jesus says it and means it. The Living Words that prick us sharply and deeply, are as true as those that give us those good feelings we so enjoy. Yet His Living Words which are that other edge of the double-edged sword, are uplifting and helpful, if we perceive the truth, beauty, and goodness in all His Living Words.
This nothing consecrated Catholic hermit does a heart-soak in the line: He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit.
Now, is it the fault of the vine if a branch here and there does not bear fruit? An apple tree in the hermit's orchard area, has lost a branch. For awhile it was hanging on by some branch-threads. The hermit took some twine and wrapped a type of sling around the dangling branch--a significant branch in size and leaves and blooms, promising fruit had it not been for, no doubt, wind damage. But the branch was too much injured, and the sling did not provide enough support to promote healing. The hermit had to prune it to a stub, close to the apple tree's main trunk.
Had this hermit gotten around to using that branch and the other main off-shooting branches, as leaders in an espalier effort, the branch would have been secured to horizontal wire and supported, such as an espaliered apple tree would have. But the hermit did not get around to it, and the winds came, and the branch was taken away.
Two of the hermit's adult children have been taken away, and with one of them, her two little girls, as well. Like the apple tree branch, the relationships of the two adult children were not bearing fruit--not for the hermit, anyway. These two offspring of the hermit have grown into adulthood and now have resentments toward the hermit, for various reasons mostly unknown to the hermit.
Is it their unresolved hurts from childhood, from a divorce, from a chronically pained parent? Is it spiritual differences? Is it their living lives more out in the world and devoid of God and church (for now) and the hermit's life of striving to love God in Himself and desiring to remain in His love?
Or consider the former spouse whose earthly birthday was today. Had to let God take that branch away, some 30 years ago. What suffering and hardship unfolded in that branch removal--but also such deep-in new growth and fruitfulness! That branch had other desires than being on the same Tree-Vine as this branch desires, loves, strives, hopes to be. (Being a branch that remains in Him is not a painless experience in the heart-wood of temporal life. We are all vulnerable branches especially if we do not remain in Him.)
Regardless, like the apple tree branch that has been taken away, part of the reason is due to the hermit's actions or lack of actions, and part is due to unavoidable circumstances (the winds blow where they will); but all is ordained by God, for He takes away the branches that do not produce fruit. The branch was not producing fruit for the relationship--not for the hermit nor for the adult children, and ultimately not for God. So He took those branches away. And this hermit must let the branches go. A branch on the tree cannot hold onto other branches that are broken and severed, no matter how much string is tied in attempts to keep them on the trunk.
What we must realize is that new branches form, often from the stub of a removed branch, or near it. So there is hope in all situations surrounding branches God takes away from our temporal and spiritual lives. We must simply do our best to keep uplifting the branches around us as well as to be receptive to and desirous of being the best possible, fruitful branch, ourselves.
But as Jesus reminds, there will be persecution and trials from the world and those of the world, for remaining in His Love--and remaining in His Love always bears fruit of love for others. So we might love to bits and pieces others--family members, strangers, and even those who have chosen to be our enemies.
(Enemies who choose to dislike or turn against a branch--imagine that! Sounds so silly and senseless, for why go to such effort of turning away from or attacking, either way, a branch? Yet it does occur, sure enough. It occurs as easily as a hermit who was tired out and chose to tend to other work and put off espaliering the apple tree. It occurs as easily as winds blowing where they will, and of branches that are for various, temporal and spiritual reasons weak in some way or other. These reasons could include our choosing to turn away from He Who is Strength and Power and Fruitful Love.)
When God takes away branches that are not bearing fruit, we should strive and pray and hope and do all possible on our parts to not be one of the branches taken away. The remedy in our lives of being a branch--what is it? We must listen to His Living Word--not only the Word of His Spoken Words but the Word of His Word as Truth and Life. His Word Is the Way. He Is the Word.
We must remain in Him, as He remains in us.
We will then be a branch that is not taken away, even though some branches close or far from us might be taken away. We will be pruned as needed, of course! We must learn to welcome that, as it will help us produce more fruit. But to be a branch that is taken away--that seems hopeless if not for the reality that new branches may grow close to or out from the stub-edges of the removed branch. We can do nothing without Christ. We must remain in Him due to His being in us, mere branches though we be. All power can flow in us; all fruit can grow from us--the "us" as in "He is in us" and "we remain in Him."
"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."
There is also hope for those branches that are taken away. Not only is there hope in the potential for new branches to sprout, but also--such as with this hermit's apple tree and the branch taken away--the branch withers and dries out on the burn pile. Once the fiery flames reduce the removed branch into ashes, the ashes will be used to enhance the soil of some trees that grow all the better due to soil with ashes.
"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."
We ought not ever forget what happens to us or to any branch who does not remain in Him. We will be taken away. We will be taken away from others who are being fruitful branches because they remain in Him, the Trunk, the Vine, the Truth, the Way, the Life. The branches who remain in Christ also have His Words remaining in them. They bear yet more fruit.
For those who remain in Him, He promises that if we ask for whatever we want, it will be done for us. What ought we ask?
This hermit asks that the branches that have been taken away from it--any family members, friends, strangers, and enemies--sprout anew on the Trunk, the Vine, and become branches once again. This hermit asks that the ashes from the branches taken away--that their withered, burned branch-ashes assist in the renewal and strengthening of all branches and that they all become one with His Real Presence.
This hermit asks that in being a branch, it submits to whatever pruning necessary to remove its unfruitfulness and detrimental flaws. (This hermit branch is not without blemishes!) And the hermit asks, also, that being a fruitful branch be always its desire, and to ever remain in Him and He in it; and that being a branch glorifies the Father, bears much fruit, and is His disciple in this temporal earth and in all eternity.
"If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
God bless His Real Presence in us! Little Branches, let us love one another! Remain in His Love! Pray we be Branches always in Him, bearing much fruit. Pray for Branches He takes away. Pray for forgiveness for our sins that have in any way contributed to those Branches not bearing good fruit. Pray that out of ashes, Branches may sprout anew, and that we all be fruitful Branches together, remaining in Him now and forever.