For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/6/2012The 5th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 15:1-17.
When Sandi and I lived in South Bend, the front of our house had a vine which covered the front flower bed. Unfortunately that vine wanted to cover everything else around the flower bed, too. It climbed up the side of the house, under, over and through the wood siding. It climbed over, under and through the grass. It was not to be contained.
I tried as I might to contain the thing. I trimmed here and there, but the more I trimmed, the more it grew. So I tried chemicals. I sprayed here and there, but that was to no avail. The vine grew in spite of the chemicals. Granted I killed a branch here and a branch there, but there was always a branch that was connected to the root system. As long as that vine was connected to the root system it was going to stay alive. So, like a man with a mission, I went out there and ripped up that vine. I ripped and ripped and ripped until I thought it was all gone. I took it out back to the compost pile and I let it wither in the Sun. I let it smolder on the bottom of that compost pile. Yet, even then, from time to time, I would spot a new branch still connected to the vine.
Like many of the things about that house, that vine was planted correctly. The person who planted that vine went through and cleared a spot. They removed all of the rocks and other things which would get in the way of that vine growing. They provided good soil in which the vine could grow. They gave that vine a good root structure and pruned it of the weak and dead branches. Then the main branches grew stronger and stronger. Whoever planted that vine knew what they were doing. That plant was healthy and robust—and uncontainable.
Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. That is, Jesus is the eternal vine. Jesus is the source of all life, here and eternal. Jesus is the fullest revelation of God to us. He is God with us.
Just think about that for a moment. With us there is birth, old age and then death. There is singleness, marriage, divorce, death of a spouse and death. There is loneliness and hope. There is birth, life, fear, hope, uncertainty and assurance. Our lives are marked by an ever changing landscape which brings forth mountains or valleys over, under and through which we are to go. Life is never a constant. It is always change. There are harsh chemical like times. There are times when we are being torn from our roots. As branches we are grown, pruned and grown again. For some of us we are grown, cut off and grafted again. There is always the Vine, that is, Jesus.
He is constant. In him God brings to us all of his wisdom, all of his power, all of his compassion, all of his mercy, all of his love and all of his being. Jesus is not just God’s representative. He is God in the flesh. As God in the flesh, Jesus brings to us that which is eternal and unchanging. He is stability in the strong face of chemicals and the tearing apart of our lives. He is the One who is sure in the face of uncertainty. Like the vine at our house, he is fire proof, chemical proof and ax-proof.
When we remain in him, through the daily disciplines of prayer, Bible reading and taking of the sacraments, we remain in the eternal presence of God. We have access to his eternal wisdom, his eternal love, his eternal mercy and eternal forgiveness.
If you think about it, when all else is destroyed around us, all that remains is our integrity and honor. Constant integrity and honor can only be found in Jesus Christ. There was a ten year old boy in Beaumont California who kidnapped and killed some years ago. The community in which he lived was outraged at his murder. When his body was found the community tied red ribbons of rage around trees, flag poles, and car radio antennae. In the midst of this quest for blood, Diane Medina, the mother of the boy said she didn’t want the memory of her son clouded by rage and anger. “We don’t want anybody wearing the red ribbons because we are not angry,” Medina said. “We want to remember Anthony with love and compassion. It’s over for Anthony,” she said, “He’s home now. He loved Jesus very much…he’s home where there is no harm, where this man can never reach him again.” She went on to tell the town to remove the red ribbons because she and her husband believed in the healing and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. I remember the words as I sat and read the story. The story ended quoting her as saying, “We really believe this.”
How is it that a woman who just had her ten year old boy taken away from her for good could grab a hold on the eternal truth that Jesus was sent for forgiveness, not rage? How is it that she is able to plead for a whole town to remember her son without rage, but with sorrow and the hope of eternal life? It is because Diane Medina remained connected to the branch. She did not let the language and claims of the “rights of individualism” cloud her thinking. She did not let the hopelessness of escaping into drugs and alcohol cloud her actions. She did not let the control of pop psychology demand retribution to settle the score. She remained in the Vine, Jesus Christ, and was lifted from temporary human vengeance-filled thinking and acting to believing and acting out the eternal life given to us in Jesus Christ.
How was that acted out? In the face of anger, Diane Medina offered love. By remaining rooted in the Eternal Vine, she was able to fulfill the commandment of God to love one another, even love those who did the greatest wrong to her. My Word to you today, friend, is that this is not just Diane Medina. It is you. You can have this strength, because it is not Diane Medina’s strength. It is not your strength, it is the strength of the eternal wisdom of the Father, offered to us in the Vine Jesus Christ, and grafted onto us by the Holy Spirit.
Where is it that we find our integrity in times of trial? Where do we go when we face days of uncertainty and loss? If we are remaining in the Vine, we go nowhere, we confess and the Holy Spirit prunes the sin which is the dead part of our branch. Then we are made to grow stronger by the nourishment of the Vine. Being nourished we will bear fruit. Diane Medina’s fruit was produced as the people of Beaumont, California were cut to the heart and removed all of the red ribbons of rage. Her witness produced much fruit. She, by her actions, showed she was a disciple of Jesus Christ. You will, too. You will because your whole way of life will be sustained by prayer, reading of scripture, and the taking of the Sacraments. All of these things are your everyday existence. You know how to remain in the Vine, and the Vine remains in you.
By remaining in the Vine you will be able to resist the chemical acid like tongues of those who wish to be the mouthpiece of the Devil. By remaining in the Vine you will be able to endure the pruning of your branch and be made stronger. You will be a vine which can go through the siding any house of resistance. You will produce much fruit to the glory of God whose testimony to his people is through you. You can be like that Vine on my house, too tough to handle when you stay connected to the Holy Vine, dear branches.
So, are we remaining in the Vine? Or, are we depending upon dead branches to sustain us? Come to the Vine, Jesus every day and live. Amen? Amen.
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