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Pruned to Grow

Gospel Reflection for 5th Sunday of Easter

John 15:1-8

Many people including myself have been experiencing some seasonal allergies as spring is in full bloom. Though change is good, there is something deep down that resists it. As a counselor, I witness clients coming to know what they need to do and then proceeding to do anything but that. We know when a relationship must end, but we stay anyway. We know when we need to lose weight, but we keep our unhealthy habits. We know that we need to apply for a job in order to get it, but we wallow in unemployment instead. We know that a relationship takes effort to grow, but never pick up the phone or stop by for a visit. We know Christ is fully present in the Eucharist, but we continue to find excuses for why we can't go to Mass. We know we need more sleep in order to not feel tired during the workday, but we keep staying up late to watch TV. These are just a number of daily examples on the top of my head. We know something needs to change, but we don't participate in the process.

One of the biggest fears people have is being alone. People would rather marry someone rather than no one. Divorce seems like a safer risk than being single forever. We put so much worth into our roles, identities, and relationships that we forget our true identity. We know Who will satisfy us and yet we turn to everything and everyone but Him. We are afraid of being alone and yet we detach from the vine. We know that the vine is the Source of all we need and yet we try to depend on our own strength.

In today's Gospel, Jesus says, "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 every one that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit." (John 15:1-2)

The Father prunes us. For all those who enjoy working in the yard or the fields, you can visualize a hook or shears used to trim branches. I'm okay with pruning branches, but I get a little uncomfortable thinking about that gardening tool used on my heart, my mind, and my schedule. Ouch.

I can be stubborn and attached to the parts that may no longer be helpful or productive. I can hold on to things and people too long. I can say that I want change, but fail to follow through.

If pruning was a do-it-yourself task, I would not be able to do it. It would be incredibly difficult to give myself a shot. It would be a disaster if I cut my own hair. It's always more efficient to let girlfriends do my makeup or hair for a special occasion. I have learned that help is needed. The Father knows us better than we do and He knows the particular places that need to be pruned in order to be the best versions of ourselves.

As I have been learning ballroom dance, I am humbly reminded that I am not the "pro." I am not the one teaching; I'm the one learning. I'm not leading; I'm following. Throughout the lessons, there are so many details my partner addresses. He fixes my posture and directs my gaze. He slows me down and guides my steps.

My instinct is to be defensive at his directives to fix the "little things." Then I remember I need his help in order to be a better dancer. The details I think are minor actually are what make a major difference in the look and feel of the dance.

We need the Father's help as He teaches us to dance through our lives. The moves that may be acceptable in the eyes of the world are not good enough for the Good Judge of our souls. If we are living in order to bring the Father glory, we must abide in Him. It would be hard to dance with someone we can't see or touch so He sent us His Son to be the vine. He is like us in ALL things except sin. In His full humanity and divinity, Jesus was pruned by the Father on humanity's behalf through His crucifixion so that all those grafted to the vine would not die but have eternal life.

Jesus gives us His Body and Blood so we can be intimately connected. Without partaking in the Fruit of the Vine, we have no life within us. As a broken branch lays waste in the lawn beneath the tree, we can do nothing when we detach ourselves from the Source and Summit of our faith.

"Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remaims on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)

God is a good good dad. He knows what's best for us even if it's going to hurt for a little while. Removing splinters hurts but provides relief. Applying ointment on a wound stings but provides healing. Saying no provides room for a greater yes.

It is Spring on the calendar and Easter in the Church so let us draw near to Our Risen Lord to experience the hope of new life. New life requires growth. Growth requires margin. Now is a good time to let ourselves to pruned. Let us do what we are asked so we can bear much fruit to bring the Father glory!

Where in your life have you been resisting change? How are you being invited to create margin in your mind, heart, or schedule to allow God to work? Where is God helping you to grow? What are things, relationships, or responsibilities in your life that are more hurtful than helpful? What does God want to cut out of your life in order to have room for something better? How can you give a no in order for a greater yes?

Happy Easter!

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