We all remember the hymn; ‘This is my body’, sung at mass mostly for the offertory or communion hymn. The verse that often sticks out in my mind is “Filled with my Spirit, how you will grow. You are my branches, I am the tree If you are faithful, others will know, you are alive in me”. And I also got thinking where is this in the bible? So I went and looked it up and found it in John chapter 15.
In the previous chapter the disciples are asking Jesus about the way to the Father. Jesus responds and comforts them in reminding them their mission and the promise of the decent of the Holy Spirit. So in the next chapter, Jesus tells the twelve the relationship between Himself and God the Father. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1). With the promise of the Holy Spirit’s decent unto the apostles and the references to God the Father we can see the early doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
In the next few lines Jesus then explains the doctrines of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Yes Purgatory. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:2-3) God will cut down those who do not bear fruit. I remind myself of how powerfully Pulp fiction made of the quote from Ezekiel 25:17 “I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I take vengeance on them.” That needs not much explanation that God will take those who have not produced any fruit to Hell. But in the next part Jesus explains purgatory. For every branch that doesn’t bear fruit, He prunes. In other translations it means that He cleans. Where else can God do this? In confession with a truly repentant soul but if that is not the case then the only other place can be Purgatory. We are not worthy to stand in the presence of God but due to Christ’s death and resurrection we are made worthy and it is up to us to merit our righteousness by our true repentance. Finally Jesus states how we get into heaven. It is because He has talked to us and we accepted His word. We are saved through faith … By Grace. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4) We must be with Jesus who sends us His grace and love so that we may be a witness to Him throughout the world.
It clearly states in this passage about Catholic doctrines on Purgatory and saved by Faith through Grace but it doesn’t stop there. Tradition is mentioned in this Bible chapter; “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11). It does clearly state that we must keep Jesus’s commandments. But the protestant would say, but all we have to follow is the ones in the Bible. But John points out later in his Gospel “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25). There is so much more to following Jesus just by what He taught in the Bible. The apostles we Primary witnesses to the Truth and have passed on the commands and teachings of Jesus throughout the ages to this present day. People say that the Church is outdated and we need to change. All we have to remember is this, Jesus taught us the ways to salvation and creating a relationship with God. We are just stewards on eternal mission of God’s saving plan. Pope Benedict put it perfectly in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too”. Even though this is in terms of Liturgy it remains the same with traditions and with the teachings of Jesus.