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|Ioannes Paulus PP. II|
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A Continual Process of Maturation
57. The gospel image of the vine and the branches reveals to us another fundamental aspect of the lay faithful's life and mission: the call to growth and a continual process of maturation, of always bearing much fruit.
As a diligent vinedresser, the Father takes care of his vine. God's solicitude is so ardently called upon by Israel, that she prays: "Turn again, O God of hosts! / Look down from heaven, and see; / have regard for this vine, / the stock which your right hand has planted" (Ps 80:15-16). Jesus himself speaks of the Father's work: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away. and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes that it may bear more fruit" (Jn 15:1-2).
The vitality of the branches depends on their remaining attached to the vine, which is Jesus Christ: "He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5).
People are approached in liberty by God who calls everyone to grow, develop and bear fruit. A person cannot put off a response nor cast off personal responsibility in the matter. The solemn words of Jesus refer to this exalted and serious responsibility: "If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned" (Jn 15:6).
In this dialogue between God who offers his gifts, and the person who is called to exercise responsibility, there comes the possibility, indeed the necessity, of a total and ongoing formation of the lay faithful, as the Synod Fathers have rightly emphasized in much of their work. After having described Christian formation as "a continual process in the individual of maturation in faith and a likening to Christ, according to the will of the Father, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit", they have clearly affirmed that the formation of the lay faithful must be placed among the priorities of a diocese. It ought to be so placed within the plan of pastoral action that the efforts of the whole community (clergy, lay faithful and religious) converge on this goal"(209).
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