Do we have the courage to speak out boldly about Jesus, like Paul and Barnabas? What prevents us from walking in the fear of the Lord and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit? I believe our chief discouragement is sin. We say: “How can I preach to others when I haven’t fully accepted the Gospel myself?” If only we were perfect, then we could spread the Gospel!
The antidote to this discouragement is in our Gospel passage this week: “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Jesus states plainly that we are a work in progress; we need to be pruned even as we follow Him. We strive for holiness and we accept with humility the pain of pruning as God teaches our hearts to love Him more than lesser things. God does most of the work; what God requires of us is that we remain in Him.
If a grave sin separates me from Jesus, I can take refuge in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If a bad habit or disordered love is weighing me down, I can humbly accept the pruning provided by trusted friends who help me to see myself honestly and encourage me toward virtue. I can voluntarily take on inner and outward disciplines that will help me to remain in Christ. My self-discipline will help me to be a better disciple and to bear fruit for Jesus.