The 15th chapter of John’s Gospel that we read during this last part of the Easter season has a beautiful image: “I am the Vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in them, bears fruit in plenty, for cut off from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) As the trees and shrubs and grapevines in this part of the world are all bursting into green it is only natural to recall these words of Jesus while out for a morning walk along the pecan groves.
There is another piece to this image and it came into my consciousness when I happened upon a pile of dried branches at the edge of the orchard last week. “Every branch in me that bears no fruit is cut away, and every branch that does bear fruit is pruned to make it bear even more. You are pruned already by means of the word that I have spoken to you.” (v.2-3) The old dried branches were stacked and ready to be burned. Behind them the pecan trees were full of new life. The pruning cuts old dead wood but also trims back some of the living tree to re-direct its energies for better growth. Carol and I have done some pruning around our yard. It’s hard enough to cut away the dead parts, often too thick for our clippers. But chopping back what is still alive, especially just as the new shoots are starting to appear, really hurts!
It’s the same with me. I don’t like giving up the parts of me that have ceased to be life-giving. But it’s even more difficult to let go of the things that I think are still vital to who I am. Such surrender requires a deep trust in the skill and the best intentions of the Vinedresser. Richard Rohr, OFM, says that holiness is less about what you do and more about what you allow to be done to you. As in, “Let it be done to me according to your word”. Mary understood what it was to be pruned by the word of God that was spoken to her.
The word of God comes to me, too, with its pruning shears sharpened to prepare me for greater fruitfulness.