God, Our Loving Cultivator and Creator
In the Gospels, Jesus uses many metaphors related to farming and raising animals to which the majority of us can no longer relate because our lives are so far removed from these realities. We go to the store and conveniently buy our food without giving much thought to where it came from and who and what was involved in cultivating it. It is helpful, however, to gain more knowledge about agriculture to better understand Jesus’ message.
When cultivating any plant, it is necessary to prune and cut away branches. There is a distinction, however, between the two. Pruning is removing extra, even healthy leaves, so that nutrients and energy can go toward the growth of the fruit. In the spiritual life, pruning takes different forms: God the Father prunes us most often through the precious suffering that He permits us to experience and through even the people and things from which He strips us. By removing even good things from our lives that draw our attention away from Him, God the Father directs our lives and hearts to Him, so that He can become our focus. When God is at the center of our lives, then His love—like the nutrients of a vine—can flow through us and touch the lives of others, thus bearing fruit.
When Jesus speaks about cutting off branches, He means something different than pruning. A gardener cuts away branches or leaves that have become shriveled and infected because they suck away precious nutrients and can also spread disease to other parts of the plant. And so it is with the Body of Christ. If we allow our spiritual lives to literally shrivel and die by persisting in unrepentant mortal sin and preferring the evils of the world to God’s goodness, then we essentially cut ourselves off from Christ and the Church.
Through baptism, we—the branches—belong to Christ—the vine. Like a loving and attentive gardener, God the Father gives us everything we need through Christ to cultivate our spiritual and moral life: the Commandments, the Sacraments, and each other. The Gospel reminds us that we are faced with a choice: we can strive to remain in Christ and be “pruned” by taking advantage of the means God gives us to lead holy lives and allowing the Father to purify us of disordered attachments to people and things. This does not mean that we will not sin or falter. It simply means that when we do, we will return to Christ and the Sacrament of Confession and begin anew. Or, we can choose to cut ourselves off from Christ and the Church by persisting in a life of grave sin. In both cases, the choice is ultimately ours. God the Father respects our free will. As the Loving Cultivator and Creator, however, His greatest desire is that we remain in His Son so that He can bestow on us the great gifts of His Love.
Yours in Christ,
Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter: Lectionary 53Tags: #arthurmarat, #frarthur, #frarthurmarat, #frmarat, #olw, #olwparish, #reflection