The “Fourth Week”: Week Thirty-One/Session Three.
Theme: Gathering The Graces.
Our reading for today: John 15: 1-17.
“I am the Real Vine and My Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of Me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing He prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Live in Me. Make your home in Me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with Me.
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with Me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from Me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with Me and My words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how My Father shows who He is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as My disciples. (John 15: 1-8 MsgB)
After dedicating the last eight months to following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, one might begin to wonder…was it all worth it? Was our elongated journey fruitful? Did it produce life-giving substance? Will we choose to live differently now that we’ve walked this pathway together with Ignatius?
I can’t answer these questions for you, my dear reader, but I can honestly say that my personal journey through the Exercises has produced a new level of awareness to my life in Christ. My hope is that our journey together has brought a new freshness for you as well.
Keep in mind, as we look for the fruit of the last eight months, that the Master sees our lives much differently than we do, just as today’s passage from John’s Gospel indicates. In our worldly thinking, we somehow believe that our lives in Christ should always be growing, always expanding, and yes, always bearing abundant fruit for the cause of the Kingdom. Yet a careful reading of today’s text makes me believe that there will be many seasons in our lives when we are apparently bearing little or no fruit, simply because the Master Gardener has chosen, at this moment, for my life to be pruned or held back for reasons I may not be aware of.
As I see it, these God-breathed seasons of pruning or times when little fruit seems to be produced, is rarely talked about in our ‘git-r-done’ society, where bigger is always better and the one with the most fruit in his or her basket at the end of the day wins. So as we come to the end of our Ignatian Adventure, looking for fruitfulness from our eight-month journey, I think it wise for us to not be too critical of ourselves, nor of our fellow journeymen, as we search through the greenery, hunting for some luscious grapes from the branches we call our lives.
Hmm. As a matter of fact, from one twig to another, let me say this:
Isn’t it sad how we branches waste so much of our valuable time examining ourselves, or for that matter, other branches on the Vine, comparing grapes (or lack of grapes) with our fellow twigs? Too bad we just can’t grasp Jesus’ words here and realize that from time to time, the Master Gardener, who knows grape-growing better than anyone else, comes and actually prunes back a fruitful branch or two, not to kill it or embarrass it, but to focus us on bearing more fruit next season?
So as we close this week of remembrance, reviewing our eight-month journey while we search for the good fruit from the Exercises, keep in mind that the most important truth to hold onto right now is that we are the twigs, while Jesus is the Vine, and God, our loving Father, is the Master Gardener. For those of us who have chosen to remain forever-grafted into the Vine, let’s celebrate the union of our lives with Him, even if we find ourselves in one of those seasons of pruning or fruit-less-ness. And like the trees of the forest, even though there are seasons of fall and winter when we don’t look all that fruitful, the sap of life (i.e. the Holy Spirit) still runs through our veins, and in the right season, spring and summer will return once again!
My prayer: Lord, as a branch, fully dependent on You, the Vine, for all sustenance and life; I hear You calling me to respond rightly to Your right order here. As the Master Gardener planted You, the Vine in His garden, grant me, Jesus, the continual wisdom and grace to simply ‘hold on’ to You for dear life. Holy Spirit, flow through me, making fruit in and through my life possible. Fruit in the right season. Fruit that lasts. Fruit that glorifies Your Name. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: From one twig to another, what’s the toughest part about being a branch in the garden of God? Have I strived for higher position and prominence? Am I bitter due to the Master Gardener’s pruning process? Am I willing to abide in the Vine, patiently allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me in ways only the Master Gardener knows are best?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure.
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.