Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. 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. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither.
In this short Gospel, the word “remain” occurs six times. Do you get the point? Remain! The Greek word μείνατε (meinate) is the plural imperative of the verb meno, meaning to abide. To abide means to remain habitually or to stay somewhere. It speaks of stability and persistence. I prefer “abide” as a translation because it suggests staying put. One can “remain” in a place for an hour and then leave, but abiding has a more ongoing sense.
It is clear that a branch must always stay attached to the vine or else it is doomed. Absolutely nothing is possible for a branch (except to wither and die) unless it is attached to the vine 24 x 7 x 365. It would appear that the analogy couldn’t be clearer.
And yet it seems very unclear to Jesus’ disciples, who walk away easily, finding abiding both tedious and difficult. And then we puzzle as to why our spiritual life is tepid and its fruits lackluster. We can’t have even a mediocre spiritual life apart from Christ; the text says we can’t do anything at all but be scattered.
How do we abide with and in the Lord? Scripture distinguishes four ways. We abide and experience union with the Lord through
- His Word – If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you (Jn 15:7). Anyone who loves me will be true to my word and my Father will love him and we will come to him (Jn 14:22).
- Holy Communion – He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him (Jn 6:56).
- Prayer (especially communal prayer) – For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt 18:20).
- Keeping His Commandments – Those who keep his commandments abide in him and He in them (1 John 3:22).
Yes, abiding is accomplished through prayer, Scripture, sacraments, fellowship, and walking uprightly. This Gospel could not be clearer: abide, abide, abide, abide, abide, abide. Six times the word is used.
Do you get it? Abide. Abide persistently.