Sunday, April 29, 2018

BE GRAFTED TO CHRIST AND DRAW LIFE FROM HIM: a homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B (John 15.1-8)

My Dad spent a chunk of his working life in a foundry in Dublin. He would say about it that 'once the metal entered your blood you couldn't get it out.'  I would say the same of soil.  Before I joined the Capuchins I worked was a gardener. If you're a gardener then you might understand what I mean.  It never leaves you.  It's more than fresh air and growing things.
I learned to dislike weeds.  Not all weeds are plants growing where they're not wanted. Some weeds entangle, throttle and kill the living things around them.  They grow only for their own benefit and to the loss of others. Thank God most plants are not weeds.  
My favourites are the fruit trees.  Most fruit trees are grafted plants like vines.  I've never grafted plants but I know how it's done. If you look at their base there's always a swollen join where the stock meets the graft.  Plants are grafted together so the strength and vitality of one fuels the potential of the other.  Usually the rootstock is wild and vigorous and the graft is a domesticated variety that lacks vitality.  Graft the two together and you get something vibrant and fruitful.
One still needs to prune.  Pruning isn't just cutting away branches.  It's an art.  It shapes the plant and can determine whether and how much fruit it bears. Careful pruning channels the life of the rootstock into the buds and therefore into the branches and the fruit.  Careful pruning helps keep a plant healthy.  One prunes the diseased and injured branches first and burns them so they don't infect other plants.  
Although it has been years since I pruned or even cared for a plant it still pains me to see them neglected or worse badly tended.  
Trees don't have a nervous system or any means to experience pain but we do.  When I apply our Lord's words on pruning the vine to myself I remember experiences of pruning and shaping.  A number of weeks ago I told you about the time I had to care for the physical needs of brother who was doubly incontinent.  He was a good man and rarely gave trouble but he could not communicate. Having to get him out of bed, wash him and dress him, change his nappies during the day and put him to bed was very hard for me.  I felt trapped.  I felt great relief when I no longer had to do that.  Yet I learned that I could do that.  I got more from him than he did from me.  Through that experience I was pruned and shaped. 
If any of us searches our memories we will find times when we were pruned by others or by our experiences.  Unlike trees we can feel and pruning hurts.  Maybe the pruning has been inexpert and careless. Perhaps it may have helped us to grow and to blossom.  Some of our experiences may have left deep scars that are very hard to heal unless they are tended by the master gardener Himself.
It is the same with our lives as it is with out bodies and with plants. There is within us a wild and rebellious urge to go our own way. If we allow that to happen we end up with lifeless chaos.  If wounds are not treated and healed they become infected and cause more problems.  If diseases are not dealt with they get worse.  If we do not cultivate a healthy way of growing then we become out of shape, and cannot produce the good we should do.  If one part of our life is spiritually or morally out of kilter then all the rest is affected.
Not one of us is perfectly shaped unless we allow the Father, the master gardener, to prune, shape and train us to His plan so that we can bring forth all the potential that lies within us.     Only if we draw our life and resources from our rootstock Christ can we grow, blossom and bear fruit that lasts.  Only through our union with Christ can we be truly alive and avoid the fire.
We remain grafted to Christ through Holy Communion in a state of grace, through prayer, through obedience to His word and to the teaching of His Church, through loving others in the truth and extending to them the love and mercy Christ has extended to us.
God made us so that we should grow, flourish, blossom and bring forth goodness and holiness, let's not turn into weeds.

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