Most of us are repulsed by spiders. Rather than admire the woven web in the corner of the room, we are quick to destroy it. The spider swaying from the ceiling does not evoke amazement in us, despite its abilities. The spider disgusts us, and even causes us fear.

But, spiders have a lesson for us. They move through life with complete confidence. The spider has within itself all that is necessary. If it wants to get from the ceiling to the floor, all it has to do is reach inside itself. The more the spider gives of itself, the further it is able to progress. Destroy a spider’s web and you might see that it is rebuilt the next day.

Why am I speaking about this?

Because, my friends, it is the lesson the Apostles had to learn after Jesus left them. He makes the point to them in today’s Gospel: “I am the vine and you are the branches. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

The vine itself does everything for the branches. Apart from the vine, the branches are empty sticks, withering and lifeless. But on the vine, the branches are vibrant and living; filled with fruitfulness and usefulness. And when those branches flourish, what a difference it makes to our world.

They give of themselves; the branches cannot bear fruit by themselves. The branches need the vine to nourish and strengthen them. We are all different branches attached to the same vine. We make up the Christian community.

Our Christian faith is always communal, never centered in isolation. Only by gathering do we become the Church of Jesus.

I once remember reading an old “Peanuts” comic. Linus is eating a peanut butter sandwich. While eating, he says, “What a wonderful hand I have. I could do so many things. Conduct an orchestra. Painting beautiful paintings. Perform brain surgery.”

By the time he finished eating his sandwich, he is holidng out both hands. “These hands are so great, they could save the world,” he says. Lucy looks up at him and says, “Linus, your hands are full of peanut butter.”

We all have peanut butter on our hands. But that should not let that stop us from reaching inside ourselves to be Christs for others.

He is the vine. You are the branches.

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