|Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker
Genesis 1:26--2:3, or Colossians 3:14-15, 17, 23-24
Psalm 90:2, 3-4, 12-13, 14, 16
Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
Spring has triggered an instant but authentic reaction to our reading about the vine and the branches in today's reading from St. John's Gospel.
Spring has sent a family of wild turkeys wobbling down the trails of my small acreage north of Omaha; the Dutchman's breeches, violets, forsythia and apple blossoms are giving way to iris, sweetpeas and ferns. And on the hilltop where I like to stretch out beneath a great elm and survey the Mill Creek Valley and the Ponca Hills to the north, I smile as I think of what I have done to the thick poison ivy vine.
For many years the tendrils of that vine in summer have passed on to my ankles, calves and arms and wrists the poison that costs me endless itching, scratching, and sometimes sleepless nights, but it has been so pleasant to enjoy my hilltop that I have kept returning. Regularly I would whack away at the tendrils with a garden tool, assuming that to do so would turn my spot green and wholly grassy.
This spring I realized: no matter how much I would cut back the poison ivy branches, if I let live the thick vine that coiled around the elm from the ground to far above my head, the nuisance would continue to thrive, and I'd be spreading lotion on my own limbs for another summer.
And so in April while it was brown and dry I cut down the main poison ivy vine.
This in a negative way helps me understand John's passage. Christ is the life-giving, health-giving, joy-giving Vine. If you and I are among the branches of that Vine, we must remain connected to Him. Some parts of the branches now -- so the media have told us for weeks -- are sick; the sickness must be eliminated. But the branches -- strong or weak -- can live, can thrive with the vigorous mercy from that Vine that is Christ. Without the Vine, we can do nothing. We might as well "be thrown out" as Jesus says, and "wither" and "be burned." But when we remain connected to Him -- !
The poison ivy trunk is dead, and I no longer fear the tendrils.
Jesus lives, and we branches of his Vine will flourish. We anticipate
the bearing of fruit! All of us!
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