Remain, remain, remain. What does Jesus mean in the Gospel story today when he asks us to “remain in me?” The image of the vine, branches and pruning speaks to me of being connected. Stay connected to Jesus. But being “connected to” is different from “remaining in.” Remaining in is something more. Then, there is the phrase “Whoever remains in me and I in him . . .” this implies to me a oneness with Jesus. What does this look like? Certainly we experience a oneness when we receive Eucharist, but I wonder if we are not invited to recognize our union with Christ in other ways.
St. Ignatius of Loyola encourages us to find God in all things. Is this the same as ‘remaining in?” I think so. I think that we are invited to look for and experience all things “in Christ.” In other words we are invited to make all things prayer. When we remain in Christ, are not all things prayer? By this I mean being attentive enough to pause and notice the face of Jesus in those we encounter. To take a moment to recognize God’s gift to us of creation as the sun hits our face. To be aware of Christ’s presence in the midst of pain and tragedy. For me, recently, remaining in Christ has meant holding the tension in the midst of seeming paradoxical situations, not choosing either or. I have come to recognize that God is in the tension with me. And, if I am patient enough, many times a third or fourth option presents itself. Is this the fruit that Jesus speaks of? These are all examples of prayer and I think of “remaining in” Jesus. This reminds me of a poem I encountered this week by Mary Oliver.
I HAPPENED TO BE STANDING
I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air. ~Mary Oliver
As we approach the end of the Easter Season, how are we being called to remain in Jesus and allow him to remain in us?