412 Healing, pruning away all that does not produce an abundant harvest within our troubled souls
412 Sunday May 2nd 2021
In the realization that we are “already pruned,” we come to a sudden awareness that the Risen Lord has been quietly healing us, pruning away all that does not produce an abundant harvest within our troubled souls.
I need some advice.
A number of you who will read this homily know about pruning grapevines – in fact, you know a lot more than I do about tending vines. I have some grapevines that might need pruning. I don’t know for sure. I need advice about this.
Here’s the story. A few weeks ago, my brother and sister-in-law pruned their Muscat vines that are growing in their backyard over in Petaluma. They gave me some cuttings and I planted the cuttings in my backyard with my buddy Antonio. By the way, Antonio calls the cuttings “little sticks” (palitos).
Now, there was some doubt in my family as to whether or not the palitos would take root and bud.
Oh ye of little faith!
The palitos are growing like gangbusters. Just about every one has two – yes two! – buds coming out. Some of them are even pushing out leaves already. There’s vigor in the vineyard.
I am, of course, very pleased to see these little miracles in my backyard. But, as I said, I also need advice. Should I cut off the top bud on each cutting? Will this make the remaining bud more vigorous? Pruning a vine with discernment can be crucial to an abundant harvest in the fall.
This is the upshot of the Gospel for today.
Jesus tells us
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 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 is not just talking about himself. We are part of the vine and the Father prunes us as well. Jesus is giving us, here among the vines in Sonoma, a beautiful metaphor for the Church.
"You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me"
I like very much the fact that Jesus thinks of us as “already pruned.” Realizing that we are “already pruned” helps us to understand important things about ourselves.
Reflect on this for a moment.
As I look back on my life, I am trying to see that some of what I have suffered is really part of a process of being pruned. For me, the challenge is to try to see that we are being pruned for a reason. And here is the reason:
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
Easter faith, as I have said before, is a process of learning how to see. We need to learn how to see our suffering correctly. Suffering – or at least some suffering - is part of the pruning process. And only by being pruned will we bear “much fruit.”
Reflecting on being “already pruned” is a beneficial spiritual practice.
I have an old friend who is an accomplished winemaker and viticulturalist. He knows how to prune a vine in order to get maximum production of the highest quality fruit in his vineyard.
I can also say that my friend knows what it is to be “already pruned.” He served our country in Vietnam, during the civil war there. He saw a lot of action. He does not go into the details about what he saw, but he did tell me this story.
In 2014, many years after his service during the war, my friend returned to Vietnam on a business trip. During this visit, my friend was invited into the home of a Vietnamese man.
Right there in the living room, the host had a picture of himself dressed as a North Vietnamese colonel posing with Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the communist insurgency.
My friend was obviously troubled to think he was in the home of a man he was trying to kill when they were both younger men. His host could see this. So the retired colonel, with great gentleness, asked my friend a simple question,
“Did you fight here in my country?”
After saying this, the retired colonel took a shrimp off his plate and laid it gracefully on my friend’s plate. Then he, again with great gentleness, said,
“I am glad that you have come back to my country to see it again.”
As Catholics, of course, we see this simple gesture in eucharistic terms. The story offers us a great example of how our life together in the Eucharist teaches us how to see the world correctly. What took place in the Vietnamese colonel’s home is what takes place within our hearts at mass.
In every Eucharist, there is a Resurrection in which holy communion takes the place of our fear, our distrust, our loneliness and the violence that marks us all in different ways.
But we have to understand the eucharistic character of the Resurrection correctly.
Every Eucharist is a resurrection in which we come to the realization that we are “already pruned.”
As the Vietnamese colonel placed that shrimp on his plate, my friend came to a realization that he had already been released from his fear and distrust of his former enemy. And in this release from loneliness, my friend realized that there had already been a healing of the memories of violence that marked him from the war.
In effect, my friend realized that he was “already pruned.” This is the realization that we call “Easter.”
I like this word, “realization.” It means two things at once. It means “to become aware of” and, at the same time, it means “to make real and tangible.”
In the realization that we are “already pruned,” we come to a sudden awareness that the Risen Lord has been quietly healing us, pruning away all that does not produce an abundant harvest within our troubled souls. At the same time, this realization makes this abundant harvest real and tangible in our lives. The realization produces “much fruit” that will be of benefit to all those around us.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 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.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Remember that my friend is an accomplished wine maker and viticulturalist. I am going to ask him what Antonio and I should do with our palitos. They are bursting with life. Just about every one of them has two buds. The leaves are pushing out. There’s vigor in the vineyard. Should we do a little pruning?
I need advice about this. I’m sure my friend will know just what to do.
- Reflection by Jim Fredericks for May 2nd, 2021
JOIN THE ST. ANTHONY'S COMMUNITY THIS MORNING
for Mass at 9:30
I just received this invitation from our friends in Santa Barbara
We hope members of your community may join us this Sunday.
Jerry and I are 'broadcasting" from Avila Beach (Near Pismo)this week.
Friends are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
We are blessed to have known them.
Rev Dr. Grandma, Cynthia W. Yoshitomi
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