The first command God gave to human beings was “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). In the Gospel Reading, there is a kind of reiteration of this command. At any rate, the text describes the bad things that happen to people who are not fruitful.
In Genesis, the fruitfulness has to do with reproduction. It comes from union between a man and a woman, and it multiplies God’s image in the production of children.
The fruitfulness at issue in the Gospel comes from connection too, but connection with Christ. It comes when Christ is in you, and you are in him.
This reciprocal being-in is a funny state of affairs, isn’t it? You can put a bowl in a box, or you can put a box in a bowl. But the box can’t be in the bowl when the bowl in in the box!
Boxes and bowls can’t manage reciprocal being-in. But persons can, because of love. Love unites you and your beloved without either one of you losing your identity. The union of love is not a fusing; it is a mutual indwelling.
In the Gospel Reading, Christ says that he always remains in his own. So if you yield to Christ in love, you have what is needed for the mutual indwelling of love. There is joy in this love, because Christ is so much with you that he is in you. And there is peace, too, because there is rest for the heart in having your beloved with you.
Your sins and the storms of life retain their power to afflict you. But you can more easily put up with things, even your own troublesome self, if your beloved is yours and your are his (Song of Songs 2:16).
In the mutual indwelling between you and Christ, then, there will be love, joy, peace, patience and longsuffering. But these very things are fruits of the Holy Spirit. When they grow in you, you are bearing fruit.
Finally, consider: is there a more powerful witness than a life lived in love, joy, peace, patience and long-suffering? If you have the fruits of the Holy Spirit in you, you will multiply God’s image in others too.
And so, by remaining in Christ, you will be fruitful and multiply.