Ever had a disagreement that led to a parting of ways? All of us had. It could have been in friendships, employment and commonly too in church ministries and communities. Did one party wither and die? Commonly, no. Both would have gone on to experience some form of a newness of life. Looking back we understood why we parted.
To ‘understand’ why we parted instead of merely ‘cliché-ing’ it ‘a blessing in disguise’ is to enter into the experience of God’s presence in our life. “We need not be afraid in God’s presence” (Today’s second reading inspires me). We are sometimes asked to leave our comfort zones for the sake of the mission, and in this presence of God, we will never ever be short changed. But we struggle to trust him so we won’t let go.
Few of us would volunteer to be pruned. The disciples had to be persecuted to be scattered. Disagreements causes divide and scatter us. The presence of God does not cause persecution or disagreements; these are caused by our human weakness to guard our comfort zones.
But the love of God understands our weaknesses because “we cannot be condemned by our own conscience” as long as our life is motivated to continue to remain as part of the vine, “whoever remains in me, with me in him bears fruit in plenty”. In other words, we are sometimes forcibly pruned by our own weaknesses but the love of God will ensure that pruning is painfully good!
We can remain in him, with him in me “when we keep his commandment to love one another”. The source of food and growth that will bear fruit for this spiritual vine in this love for one another. We are the branches that must allow this source of life to flow through us. The moment this flow stops we wither, die and fall of the vine. Conversely, when we are rich in this love, we must be pruned to allow for this source of life to get into new areas of mission.
This mission of human life is to spread this love of God. It is like a vine with many branches. It is spread through who we are to one another, a branch creeping generously in all directions to allow for this love to flow through to give new life and new hope in new areas. To go in all directions, we must be pruned.
We come into a comfort zone when we enjoy the fruits of love. Being comfortable can cause us to lose sight of the mission. There will always be a temptation to love ourselves more than to love the mission of life. There will always be a temptation to ‘keep’ this love for ourselves and thus alter the mission. Love cannot be kept, it must flow. A branch cannot grow unless it is pruned.
Pruning is painful but it becomes painfully good when we look back to understand the path our life took to spread the mission. Love is itself painfully good because the fundamental action of love is to give. Giving is pruning.
“Love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence”
5th Sunday of Easter