5th Sunday of Easter 2021
As I come to the end of my tenure of twenty years here at St. Margaret’s, the Lord has given me, over time, different models of how to be a pastor.
Christ the priest has allowed me to bring all your prayers and offer them through sacrifice of His Body and Blood at the Altar during Mass. Christ the Good Shepherd has allowed me to tend and protect the flock leading it safely through dangers and by restful waters. Christ the Prophet has allowed me to choose my words wisely and prudently to offer encouragement, give direction and provide hope of the future.
Over the years, I have also found myself inspired by another model - that of the example of Christ the Gardener! After all, it was in a garden it all began. And on Easter Sunday, the place where Christ rose from the dead, was also in a garden - a reminder that all things are made new and begin afresh.
How has this image of the garden inspired me, and will continue to do so as I will begin my ministry, come July, at the parish of St. Therese, who is providentially called “The Little Flower”?
Listen again to the perennial words of Christ.
Jesus said to his disciples: “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. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”
A better word used by other English versions of this passage in Scripture (Father John Knox's translation), instead of using the word "prune", they render it "to trim clean". Now let us apply Christ's analogy to ourselves, allowing him to discern the state of the garden of your soul.
The spiritual life, as our physical bodies, likewise need discipline, nurturing, training. If we are to be rooted in Christ, not just planted in a flower pot, but deeply rooted in Him as the roots of a vine which go deep into the rich soil, we must allow ourselves to be, periodically, trimmed clean.
Nobody likes going under the knife. But the secret of trimming clean a part of a vine or a rose bush that is either growing out of control or getting itself tied up in a knot, the secret is the type of blade that is used.
It's not a kitchen knife or a pair of scissors from the drawer. The blade has to be carefully crafted, particularly sharp and immaculately clean, and not everyone is gifted as to how to use it with precision and to full effect.
And so for the disciple - we have to trust this particular blade in Our Lord’s hands. We even have to be willing to suffer a bit for the sake of heavenward growth and not be afraid of the gardener of our souls. Being trimmed clean by our Lord allows us to become stronger in our attachment to Him and more appreciative of His mercy in our lives.
And even though at times we might feel spiritually dead or dormant, and at times have to weather sickness or disease or find ourselves all tied up or totally confused at times, always remain planted in His own vineyard. Allow our souls to be trimmed clean by the Sacrament of His mercy through confession and be nourished by his Eucharistic Body and Blood. Then we can be assured that as we travel through the seasons of life, at the proper time, we will rejoice in producing a rich harvest and bear much fruit.