Reflection on Jesus the Vine

branches

 

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-11 NRSV).

Saint Benedict in Chapter 7: On Humility of The Rule wrote that the first step of humility is to keep “the reverence of God always before our eyes.”  Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century refers to “reverence of God” as “consciousness of God.” (See page 79).

It is much too easy to walk through our day as if we are an entity unto ourselves.  We have the many tasks before us which take up our time and attention.  Job duties.  Family matters.  Financial concerns.  Relationships and many other commitments.  These and others not named serve to distract us from what is really important.  Unless we live with that reverence for God in all things, places and people that Jesus and Saint Benedict refer to.

As Christians who have been given a share in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and called His friends who are given the new commandment to love one another; we are never an island unto ourselves.  We are branches linked to the Vine who is God the Vine-Grower in the Word made Flesh.  As God is present with us and each other; we work together to bear the fruit that gives life and growth to the rest of the garden.  Even while we struggle with the most troublesome branch in the bunch.

My very favorite verse from this Gospel text is the one that says, “apart from me you can do nothing.”  This verse is a great example of that first step of humility that Saint Benedict wrote about.  When we pursue our life of faith and prayer as if we are on remote control, it is only a matter of time before the battery runs out of energy.  We need the time in private solitude, contemplative prayer and/or centering prayer to live into our lives within the community of other branches in the garden.  Our focus must be Jesus and His presence with reverence for His Holy Name.  Contemplative prayer helps us see all things including ourselves from God’s perspective.

How do you see your relationship as the branch to the vine?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on Doubt, Faith and Believing.

St. Thomas

 

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  (John 20:26-29 NRSV).

 

Thomas the Apostle is traditionally known as the doubter.  Because Thomas would not take the word of the other Apostles that the Risen Jesus appeared to them, he is believed to be without faith.  Others might interpret Jesus’ words to Thomas appear to suggest that Jesus gave Thomas what he wanted, but that those who believe in Jesus’ Resurrection without the experience that Thomas had, are somehow more faithful that he was.

We do have the most well used Scripture verse to back up what Jesus said about faith and what is seen and not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 in the Common English Bible reads, “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.”  So the matter of faith being related to what we do or do not see is a valid point.

God also knows that we struggle with faith because we are human.  It is difficult to believe in God when we read Gospel texts about Jesus healing the sick; while we sit at the side of a dying loved one who is not getting any better.   Being asked to have faith in the Resurrection of Jesus in a culture where violence and death rake up billions of dollars in the movies and television shows is difficult to say the least.  Faith is a real challenge when we pray and feel like our prayers are not heard.

As we contemplate the Gospel for this Sunday, it appears that God is fully aware of how difficult faith is for us.  God sees our fears, doubts and questions as God’s opportunities to draw us closer to God and find our faith strengthened as we yield to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.  Jesus offers us the opportunity to touch His wounds and receive His compassion so that our doubt becomes the pathway to a simpler faith.  The simpler faith sees prayer and many of life’s challenges as opportunities for grow closer in relationship with God that is made of trust and love.  Our evidence is the love God has for us in Jesus.  It is His love for us that meets us where we are, and walks with us to search for a deeper union with God.  The experience of St. Thomas becomes our experience of the Resurrection.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB