I am a ________ branch

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit”

Years ago, we added a new deck to our house and on one end of the deck we added a very tall wood slat screen. Now some might think it was for privacy. In fact, it was meant to be a support for growing grape vines. The vine would be an ever-present reminder of our True Vine and our life as His branches. The vine also would be the source of the grapes used to make the wine for the sacrifice. That little project still needs to be started. Perhaps it is that wooden screen, absent the vine, that starkly recalls what life would be like without Jesus, the True Vine. It would resemble those barren wood slats that are no more than dead wood and yield nothing.

Our gospel this morning calls to mind what we have by our union with the True Vine. In Jesus we are nourished, we prosper, we live. We are strengthened and disciplined through the Father’s pruning of our lives which makes us better able to provide the abundant food the world needs – Jesus’ gospel and sacraments.

Jesus uses the analogy of a vine to give us the opportunity to think about where we are and what we are a part of. We know that the vine, Jesus, is strong and capable of sustaining and nurturing all the branches. But to receive His nourishment we need to not just be attached to the vine; we need to live in it. 

As with any plant, some branches are fully alive – green and fruitful. Some may be in need of correction and pruning to return to full life. Some may be attached but in actuality are dead, their veins separated from the life of the vine. Jesus’ word calls us to look at ourselves. It gives us the chance to consider, ‘What kind of branch am I?’

Perhaps I am that fruitful living branch, strongly attached to the vine. I remain fervent in prayer, spending time in His presence and allowing Him to speak to me. I receive the sacraments, almost as if it were the very first time, I give thanks for the way His sacramental grace renews and sustains my soul. I strive to use all of my gifts and talents to build up and encourage; I also challenge things have gone wrong in my life and in the world. I demonstrate through my actions that I am willing and eager to help others in and outside of my circle. I let my light shine brightly from the hilltop and call people to Christ. I know that this describes each of you because I see it in you.

Perhaps, however, I am the pruned branch, waiting for renewed growth, ready to leave failings behind and prepared by God for the next part of my Christian mission journey.

Perhaps, I am the dead branch, and if I am, it is time to trust in the God of life who can restore me. I just need to want it.

Our call today is to look deep within and honestly ask, which branch am I and then to set forth by the grace of God to fully live as or become that fruitful branch.

Be not afraid!

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”

So far in Lent we have focused on the change and reform necessary in our lives. We have been focusing on the various Lenten disciplines, the means and methods by which we achieve conversion, change and reform. These disciplines help us become more ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way.

The subjects of fasting, sacrifice or giving, and study have been covered thus far. Next week we resume with the consideration of prayer and proclamation.

Our Holy Church pauses today to celebrate. We sense it because today we hear the Gloria and the Alleluia. Lenten purple is put away for this moment and is replaced by joyous white.

We celebrate because this Sunday, one-hundred and twenty-four years ago, a group of oppressed immigrants, people treated disrespectfully by oppressors in their home countries, right here in the United States, and even by their church, people thought little of by their neighbors, took the lessons learned from the Lenten disciplines they faithfully practiced and put them to action. 

This Sunday what they learned from fasting, sacrifice, study, prayer, and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus, humanity’s Emancipator, bore fruit. They found themselves the branches of the true Vine – alive in Christ. They found themselves freed of the dead old branch pruned away because of its corruption, pruned away because it heeded deceitful spirits and followed men with seared consciences.

These heroic people stood on the side of Jesus and just as proclaimed in Wisdom, He, the Just One, confronted their oppressors with great confidence. Those oppressors stood there in awe and they still do today.

As with every true Christian. from the time of the Acts Church. those faith filled immigrant heroes stood up without fear. They heard Jesus say, Fear not little flock. They inherited and have passed on to us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

We have Christ Jesus. We are His branches. His Father strengthens us and fills us with His good grace. We can face any fear and no longer be debilitated by it. The tender love of God has freed us from terror, from being held down, and from slavery to the opinions of those who do not know the Lord. A disciplined life strengthens us for this. Faithful trust is the fruit of the reform necessary in our lives and the world. Today we celebrate those who trusted and say with them:  In You O Lord I place my trust. Boże, do Ciebie się uciekam!