May 2, 2021
“He prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Jesus’s words shed a light of hope on hard parts of our life. And what we are experiencing in our world, and in the Church, right now. Even when something is done by evil, our Father can use it to help us bear more fruit. Fruit that will last forever…
- Jesus is showing us in our lives that He is the expert pruner during our chaotic times to make our lives more fruitful.
- God knows how, when and how much to prune us and He does it out of love, not to destroy us. It feels negative, but in the long term it is very positive.
- Even a physical death is like a great pruning, not to destroy us, but so that we bear abundant fruit.
- Jesus at the Last Supper said He would go away to the apostles’ advantage so the Paraclete would come and fill them with His Spirit.
- The Catholic Church recently has been going through a pruning period with shut downs of Masses, no communion on the tongue, etc.
- Our pruning today is a sign of God’s love which seems negative, destructive and painful, but needed so we can receive more fruits for all eternity.
Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and vine grower and the need for pruning in order to bear much fruit. God prunes the ones that are bearing fruit, so that it will bear more fruit. When Jesus went away, it was a pruning for the apostles. As Jesus says, “you’re sad, because I told you, I’m going away.” “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away.” How could it be good for us that Jesus go away? He said, “because if I do not go, the Paraclete will not come. But if I go, I will send Him.” And so, they’re losing the physical presence of Jesus, but they’re gaining His spirit in them. And so, Jesus will actually be more united to them by the interior dwelling of the Holy Spirit in them.
There are many ways that God prunes our lives today, even in how we individually deal with the past year’s changes in the Mass and Sacraments because of the Covid restrictions placed on us. It’s faith in Jesus Christ that opens us to the graces that He wants to give, and no power, no human power, no diabolical power can stop Him from giving those graces, if we have faith. So, pruning is not a sign that God doesn’t love us, it’s a sign that He does love us.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in Me that does not bear fruit. And everyone that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it bears more fruit.” Everyone that does bear fruit, He prunes, so that it bears more fruit.” Has God been pruning you? Has God been pruning you? Pruning is an interesting thing. When I was growing up in West Virginia, I didn’t know much about vineyards. But then the community I joined in France had its mother house in a little village in the Burgundy region of France are well known for its wine, so there were a number of vineyards around. And it was surprising to me to see the vineyards after they had been pruned, because it was like there wasn’t much left, just little stumps. And the person who’s doing the pruning has to know what they’re doing. They have to know the right time to do it, and they have to know how much to do because otherwise they could be ineffective if they don’t prune enough, or they could even destroy the plant, so it takes an expert to know what they’re doing. And so this is a very hopeful message, because Jesus is showing us that in our life, whereas there we have experiences, where it seems like we’re losing things. We’re losing important parts of our life, things that we were very attached to. And it can feel very chaotic, and destructive, and we can have a lot of fear about how that’s gonna leave us. And so the very hopeful thing that Jesus is saying here is that situation with feels chaotic, and destructive, like it doesn’t have any sense, that there’s actually someone who’s an expert, and who loves us, and He wants not to destroy our life, but to make our life much more fruitful, who’s working in our lives. And so just the way if you didn’t know, if you saw a person pruning a vine, you think he was destroying it. And so that’s the way it often feels in our life when it’s God who’s doing it. And one thing He says, He doesn’t prune all the branches, some of the branches. He just removes the ones, He prunes, are the ones that are already bearing fruit, but He wants them to bear more fruit. And so as I say, this sheds a lot of light on our own life, because when that happens, it feels very dangerous. It feels like our life has been destroyed, and that’s why it takes an expert to do it, because if it’s just a human was doing it, they could be destroying us. But when it’s God who’s doing it, He knows how much is good for us, and when it will not be good for us, when is the right time. He’s doing it because He loves us, and He’s doing it not to destroy us. So that’s what it often feels like, and not even to punish us but so that we can bear much fruit. So even though it feels negative, in the long term, it’s very, very positive. It’s a very hopeful light, about our own lives. There could be a lot of examples each one of us could think of, different examples in our lives, maybe things that we were very attached to, our age, our health, and so many things that accidents that can be like ways in which we’re being pruned. In fact, even death is in a sense, physical death is like a great pruning, not to destroy us, but so that we bear abundant fruit. And relationships are one way that God can be pruning in us. For instance, sometimes there can be a person who is a real instrument of God for us. I’ve experienced this in my own life, several times, and I’ve seen it in other people’s lives, a person who is an instrument of God, helping us to grow closer to God. And then, in one way or another, they’re taken away from us. And we think, how could that be good, because this person was such an instrument for me. But the danger is that we be more attached to the instrument of God, than to God Himself, and so sometimes God permits that person to be taken away. Think, and I give you the extreme example, where Jesus Himself says, at the Last Supper, He says, to the apostles, “you’re sad, because I told you, I’m going away.” But He says, “nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away.” Now, how can that make sense? How could it be good for us that Jesus go away? Right? That’s the whole goal of our life, is to be with Jesus. So how could it be good for Jesus to go away? That must be a mistake, when He said that right? What does He say? He said, “because if I do not go, the Paraclete will not come. But if I go, I will send Him.” And so they’re losing the physical presence of Jesus, but they’re gaining His spirit in them. And so Jesus will actually be more united to them, even though He’s not physically present, by the interior dwelling of the Holy Spirit in them. And so, right now, in this difficult time that we’re going through, is God pruning right now. Just consider the situation in the Church during this past year. I’m not gonna try to give an opinion on whether the decisions that were made were good or not. We know for a time we weren’t able even to gather for Mass, and now in a lot of places, including in this archdiocese, we’re not able to give Holy Communion on the tongue. And this is a situation which has caused a lot of pain for people who love the Lord. Good people who love the Lord have different opinions on what should be done. And again, I’m not going to try to say what should be done, because I think the devil wants to use this to create a lot of division, and I think we’ve all experienced a lot of division. As if this time wasn’t painful enough, there’s been all this extra division. So we need to be patient, and understanding and charitable with people who think differently. Some people during this time have opted, when they’re not able to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, some of you have opted to make simply a spiritual communion. And that has caused a lot of controversy. So I wanted to share, again, I’m not trying to say whether that’s good or bad, but I wanted to share the experience someone shared with me, because I think it illustrates a larger point. This person said they were showing a lot of anger when this decision was made, and they decided to make Spiritual Communion. But it was very hard for them not to receive our Lord sacramentally. And then I’ll read what this person wrote. “But in the last few months, I have had a growing conviction that this deprivation, because it does feel like a deprivation, is something that God is using as a great grace. Depriving Catholics of the Mass and of the Eucharist would surely be a top priority of Satan, and he succeeded in making that happen. And in the case of our archdiocese, there has been the added burden of not being able to receive the Eucharist on the tongue, for a year. And yet I feel this offering up and trusting God to do what He says He will do when I receive a Spiritual Communion, has somehow become a greater source of grace than if I had been receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, and probably taking Him for granted for the past year. I wonder if the Lord is using this trust to help the faith of others, a reversal of satans intentions, to bring about a greater good.” And again, the situation is different for each person, so each person can decide differently. But here’s, I think the key point that I wanted to come to. “The biggest spiritual enlightenment about all this has come to me through the prayer before Communion. I used to be stopped by the first part of the prayer, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,’ but in the last several months, I am suddenly hearing the second half of the prayer, ‘but speak the word, and my soul shall be healed.’ Speak but the word and my soul shall be healed. You know, that was the Roman centurion who had this word, comes from the Gospel, the Roman Centurions, asking Jesus to cure His son. And Jesus said, ‘Okay, I’ll come in,’ he says, ‘Lord, I’m not worthy to receive you into my house. Just say the word.’ You don’t have to come, I believe that you have the power to heal my son without you coming. My servant hear, my servant. The first time that these words really struck me was during the Mass, after I had been bitterly complaining to myself, about not being able to receive the Eucharist. A few minutes later, I was repeating the words of this prayer before communion, and suddenly, it was as if I was hearing them for the first time. And it almost seemed to me as if the prayer was placed in the Mass for these times, especially. And I asked myself, ‘so do you believe what you’re saying, that God has only to say the word to will it and you will be healed?’ ‘That he doesn’t have to come under my roof? Do I have as much faith as the Roman centurion, who trusted that Jesus didn’t have to come all the way to his house, and he only had to say the word and his servant would be healed?’ Somehow, it was a revelation to me, and has really changed my attitude towards the Spiritual Communion. I’m still looking forward to the day when I can receive Jesus on the tongue, but in the meantime, I take great satisfaction from having foiled Satan’s attempt to distance me from God, and perhaps to help the faith of others.” And so again, every person has a different decision to make in this situation, but I think there’s a larger point. Because in the situation in which for one way or another, a person is not able to receive our Lord sacramentally, say, a place where there was no priest or place where a person was in prison or many different circumstances, like we had, just several months ago, when all the Masses were not, people weren’t able to come to Mass. I think there’s an important lesson there, that the problem in the United States today is not the lack of Sacramental Communion, it’s a lack of faith in Jesus Christ. And that’s the essence of a Spiritual Communion, it’s faith in Jesus Christ. We can be saved, even if we can’t make a Sacramental Communion, even if we can’t receive Jesus sacramentally but we can’t be saved, without an act of faith in Him. It’s faith in Jesus Christ that opens us to the graces that He wants to give, and no power, no human power, no diabolical power, can stop Him from giving those graces, if we have faith. And so, in this time, in these difficult times that we are living is God using these times to prune us? With our Blessed Mother, who she herself, had to accept that terrible pruning of having to let go of her Son, she’s with us to help us understand so many things that have been happening in our life. And it seemed to us, you know, one of the striking things is that being pruned, it feels like God is forgetting us, or being mean to us, or doesn’t like us. But it’s actually those who are more loved by God, who are the ones who are the most pruned. So pruning is not a sign that God doesn’t love us, it’s a sign that He does love us. And so, this is an opportunity for us to reflect today on how so many things in our life, which seem so negative and destructive and painful, are signs of God pruning us, which is painful, but which so that we can give more fruits for all eternity. Amen.