Abide in Me, and I in You

What does it mean to abide in Christ? Why do we speak of abiding in, rather than with or through Him? Perhaps nowhere else in literature do we encounter this peculiar idea of remaining in another. St. Paul confesses that “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Today’s Gospel passage, in which Jesus declares that He is the true vine, brings to the fore this mysterious dynamic of dwelling within another, and allowing him to dwell within oneself. How can we understand this?

When I came into the Catholic faith, I marveled at this idea of abiding in Christ. As I reflected upon it more deeply, I was struck with how this mirrors the act of reading.


Consider that when we begin a great book in earnest, we do not merely read the words on the page but receive them into ourselves. We allow the story to penetrate our mind, to shape our imagination, so that the author’s world slowly rises forth and takes root in ourselves. One might say that the act of reading always begins with the reader’s wholehearted yes to the author; he receives the written word with open hands so that it dwells within him.

Remarkably, though, this act of receiving soon becomes an act of immersion. Once you have allowed enough of the written word to remain within you, percolating through all your thoughts and memories, it becomes a world into which you are then fully immersed. Something extraordinary happens: the story takes on a life of its own, and you now find yourself abiding in a reality that seems more alive than the world around you.


To those on the outside, the sight of someone reading a book seems rather unexciting, yet for the reader there is an exuberant flow of life at work between his mind and the written word. The story abides in him, and he in the story. When we read deeply, we experience a kind of inter-indwelling, for just as we take the story into ourselves, we are also drawn into a living world.

Here, then, we begin to appreciate what it means to abide in the Lord. Distance dissolves. We enter into profound intimacy with Him, as we open ourselves to Him in Scripture and in the sacraments. In the process, we become part of Him; we are generously immersed in His Life. It is a high call for every disciple. We can do nothing, Jesus tells us, apart from Him. Only when we dwell in Him, and He in us, experiencing that flow of divine life, can we bear any fruit.

Sitting with the Lord in the Garden

As you allow Jesus to abide within you, consider too the image of the sanctuary. Here I am reminded of a monastery garden in Toledo during my travels to Spain last year. As I walked through the cloister, I was struck with the beauty of the courtyard garden within, abundant with sunlight and flowering trees, and it seemed to me that to sit within that garden was to dwell in one’s own heart and allow the Lord into oneself.

I invite you to take to prayer this image of inter-indwelling the next time you go to Mass. When you receive Jesus in the Eucharist, receive him fully as if embracing the words in a book, or sitting with him in the inner garden of one’s soul. In that very same movement of receiving, recognize that you now abide in Him. Remain in Him, so that you may not only receive Him but become part of Him.

[Readings: Acts 15:1-6; Jn 15:1-8]

Radhika Sharda, MD

Radhika Sharda is a practicing physician and a convert to the Catholic faith from a Hindu background. She has written a book of essays on literature, Savour, which may be found on Amazon. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her three young boys.

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