I am the true vine, and my father
is the vine grower John 15:1
Growing up, I recall having multiple opportunities to be aware of the reality of vines. There were ample open fields and wooded acres virtually just beyond our backyard. In addition, I specifically recall my mom and dad holding somewhat different opinions on the “Virginia creeper”— Parthenocissus quinquefolia for the horticulturally exacting, in the grape family— that liked to make its way up the side of the exterior of our house. Mom found it charming; Dad was convinced of its cumulative toll on the mortar!
I further remember being perplexed that, on the one hand, Mom and Dad would mutually delight in the expansion of the clematis vines that were planted in several portions of the garden and yet, on the other hand, would annually radically cut back the vine in fall. I thought: “Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of promoting growth?” Well, Mom and Dad obviously had a greater knowledge of gardening than I. It is safe to say they also, at that point, understood the words of Christ more fully:
He takes away every branch in me that does nor bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit
To quote a meditation on this verse:
In pruning, the vines were cut back so severely that they gave the appearance of lifeless stalks. When have you felt like that in your life? Did God ever generate new growth from what seemed “lifeless”? Saint Thomas Aquinas: “Although someone is well disposed and united to God, still if his affections are bent on diverse and trifling things, his power is weakened and he is rendered less effective to do good. And hence it is that God, to make us more productive of good, often cuts off from us and purges us of similar impediments by sending us tribulations and temptations, which if we overcome , we become stronger in the performance of good. (Magnificat: Vol. 20, No. 2., pg. 411)
Recently, I have had considerable opportunity to reflect on the question: How may we strive more fully to prepare our children to be true disciples of Christ? Beyond the element of direct catechesis, how do we form them to be rooted in faith and fruitful in virtue so that they will abound in good works? It strikes me that we live in a time where it can seem that even a stern look given to a young person, let alone a word of correction, often immediately leads to an accusation of “cutting them down.” Well, clearly we adults need to be careful about our choice of words and our methods of discipline. Still, I believe we need to reclaim the value of discipline in our lives. It can be a powerful sign of authentic love. Let us have the grace to begin with a self-examination: what needs to be trimmed in my life, even to the point of hurting, in order for me to experience what Jesus promises to accomplish in me, if I trust His method of spiritual “heart surgery?
Peace in this Easter Season,