St. Paul experiences first hand the analogy of the vine and the branches. As a Jewish Pharisee, bent on destroying the Christians, he accomplished nothing in terms of glorifying the Father. He only managed to wreak a great deal of havoc and build a terrifying and intimidating reputation for himself.
We can only imagine the stories of this man that flowed through the Christian communities throughout the Christian world and the even more amazing story of his conversion. Was it true? Did this man who was trying to destroy us really become one with us through Baptism? Now we hear that he, who has abandoned his Jewish name of Saul in favor of his Roman name, Paul, and who for three years following his conversion has been preaching and teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ in Damascus and the surrounding area (Gal. 1:13-18), is coming to Jerusalem! Can we trust him or should we fear for our lives and the lives of our loved ones?
Jesus’ many parables about the vine and the branches are not complete without mention of the vine grower or vine dresser. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit when separated from the central vine, neither can it graft itself to the vine. In Baptism, God re-attaches us – He grafts us – to the True Vine from whom we are separated by Original Sin. This was true for Paul, as well, but he required a second kind of “grafting.”
They were all afraid of him, not believing he was a disciple. Even after three years they still had their doubts. Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles. Often times we, too, need someone like Barnabas, who is willing to play the role of the vine grower, to connect us – to graft us – to a group.
Jesus works through us, in us and with us to make Himself and His message known to others. When we bring someone to Christ through the Sacraments, or through social friendship, we help tend the Lord’s vineyard and increase the Church’s fruitfulness. By this is my Father glorified.