In my spiritual life I can look back on periods when I thought I was living in Christ, yet, upon reflection now, the actual fruit of my life was far from God’s will. At certain levels of consciousness I thought that I belonged to Christ, however, my behavior, my attitudes, my words and thoughts, were not actually of Christ.
The amazing thing is that we can so fool ourselves in thinking we are of Christ, but at the same time, we indulge in sin or in a delusional indifference to what God demands. We fool ourselves in thinking that we have Christ because we feel comfortable with a superficial sense about belonging truly to Christ. Yet, in a moment of grace, we can be awakened to the need for repentance. The reality of life says something to us. Behavior is the indicator of the heart’s true condition. “By their fruits you will know them.”
In the Gospel Reading, Jesus takes the example of the vine with its branches and fruit. Christ is the vine; we are the branches. The fruit is the reality of behavior that grows out of the sap of interior union. I cannot have virtual fruit. It is there or it isn’t. I am a certain kind person or I am not. For example, I am chaste or I am not. Before people in real situations, I speak the words of faith or I speak the jargon of our secular world. In regard to possessions I live in the simplicity and concern for the poor, or my life is centered on consumerism and greed. And so on.
The vine Grower is the Father. The reality of our life is before the Father, God the first Principle of Life in the Trinity and the Creator of all things. God created in six days and on the seventh day He rested. His works are manifest and real. Our behavior is also manifest and real. The Father expects fruit from the vineyard. God calls forth from us, His new creation, fruits of our new life in Christ, the vine. God’s creation is real; the fruit of our behavior must be real and reflect the quality the Kingdom demands of us.
We are responsible for our behavior. We have all received talents from the King going out on a journey. When he returns, he expects dividends on the creation he has invested in us. The Lord also commanded that the barren fig tree be cut down and thrown into the fire. They are parable images but exacting nevertheless.
One of the great deceptions of modern day theology is that anything that is inconvenient or that goes against our immediate feelings, cannot be of God. We take our fallen, wounded nature, and say: “Well, that’s how God created us and God must love us as we are.” Part of this idea is true in a way, but part is terribly false. God loves us in our person and individuality but wants us to be transformed into that image he has in his Word. We are made in God’s image in the potential of our souls, but that image is not ultimately what God expects of us.
God calls us into a new creation, beyond the powers of our inborn natures, beyond the false self. God calls us in Christ’s power to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Much must be accomplished by the grace of Christ in transforming union. His love for us in our present condition is a tender compassion; God’s vision for our transformation is a powerful love. His love for us in Christ demands transformation.
We must take refuge in the practice of opening our hearts to God in deep prayer that comes from the Holy Spirit. The daily practice of humble, courageous prayer allows God to purify the heart. For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.