What is Jesus Doing?
In many of the gospels that we hear during this Easter season, we are given various images from Jesus of the unity desired by God for His People. Last week we heard of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gathers the one flock around Him and guides us into peace. Today, we have another image of unity as Jesus tells us, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” With this image, He establishes the relationship that we are to live in order to be His true disciples.
“Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus tells us. We are called as branches to bear fruit for the Father. Branches that do not bear fruit are worthless, and they are removed and burned. Branches that do bear fruit, however, are not simply left alone. Rather, they are pruned.
And pruning can be a harsh process. It involves snipping, tweaking, clipping, and cutting. To one who has no idea what is going on, it looks like trauma and destruction. However, when a branch on the vine is pruned, cared for in this way, the production of fruit actually increases. But that fruit can only be possible so long as the branch remains on the vine.
So Jesus tells us, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” What does this mean? How do we “remain” in Jesus?
As I said, the one who prunes does so with the expectation that this pruning will yield even greater fruit. Therefore, when we branches experience the “turmoil” of the clipping and snipping of the Pruner, our response can be complaint – or it can be expectant awe. What is God getting ready to do in me, in you, in our families, our parishes, our communities, when we are experiencing the distress and turmoil of this pruning?
During the last year we have had our share of turmoil and distress. The presence of the coronavirus and the associated restrictions and dangers have been, in a sense, a type of pruning for us. Many of us have lost loved ones; we have all been separated from family and friends; we have been denied to opportunity for Mass; and even now we cannot gather as fully as we would like. Certainly, we have had our opportunities to complain, and most of us, if we are honest, have bemoaned some sort of inconvenience.
However, can we put this difficulty into a different light? Can we see the hand of God – the divine Gardener – in the experience of quarantine, government and church guidelines, and personal sacrifices? What if we turned away from complaint and truly wondered at what God could be preparing for us? This is the attitude of hope that all the faithful need to cultivate. When a gardener prunes, she does it with hope – hope for a fuller, healthier plant; hope for new and beautiful fruit. Imagine what could be in our parish if we took that attitude! We can look to Christ, the heart of our faith – the True Vine – and commit ourselves again to continuing the work of the Kingdom in earnest – to go forth and bear fruit that will last.
But it only happens when we remain in the true Vine. Only connected to Jesus can we do anything – can we bear any fruit. In Scripture, the imagery of grapes and wine is meant to convey a sense of joy that is brought about through a proper relationship with God. Wine is a blessing (think about that when you go to dinner at someone’s home; you often bring wine!). But wine needs grapes, and grapes need branches, and branches need the Vine.
It is a trite comment when responding to tough times to say “What would Jesus do?” However, in these times, I am disillusioned by that question. “What would Jesus do?” implies that He is not actually present, so we need to guess at what He would do. No. Our faith is that Jesus is Risen! He is present and active now! What is Jesus doing – now, here, in you, in me, in our families, in our community? He is active when we are active; when we are loving; when we are bearing fruit and acting for peace.
We start here – in prayer – united with Jesus the Vine. He gives us life and we are called to bear fruit that we can share with others – for an increase in joy, an increase in peace.
Remain in Him.
During this month of May, we traditionally honor Mary, the Mother of God. I ask you to consider praying with Mary each day – try praying the Rosary, where Mary prays with you, and God hears the prayers of His Mother. Together, united in prayer, united with Mary the perfect disciple, as branches on the True Vine, we are agents for peace and justice in our community.
What would Jesus do? No – this isn’t our faith. Our faith isn’t about guessing what God is doing. Rather, it is about seeing His action and imitating Christ. God is preparing to act in us in remarkable ways.
What is Jesus doing now?