With springtime fully upon us, many people are spending this weekend out in the yard or garden, hoping for a beautiful and bountiful growing season. Today’s Gospel is timely, then, as Jesus uses the analogy of a vineyard to describe how His disciples can bear spiritual fruit in the world.
Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg of the Archdiocese of Seattle stopped by Morning Air® to share his reflection on today’s Gospel. He focused not only on the fruit the Lord wants us to bear, but a key part of the growing process: the pruning.
“Jesus uses a great agricultural image, something that He would have seen happening around Him. He would have watched how the vinedressers took care of their vines at multiple times during the year, and for multiple purposes.
The pruning that took place during the winter months was to both shape the vines, as well as take any dead branches from those vines – branches that could cause disease, that could impair the growth, or endanger the plant. Pruning was really preventive and protective.
But also, pruning would take place as the vine began to grow into the summer months. Jesus saw that pruning, especially that summertime pruning, as something that would actually cut back the many numerous shoots, so that the vine would be able to focus on producing as much fruit as possible from the remaining shoots.
And Jesus watched how resilient those vines were, how they never allowed pruning to have the last answer in their lives. But rather, pruning became a motivation for growth, a motivation for creativity, both growing in new directions but also producing better and more abundant fruit.
I think our Lord watched that process, and He said, ‘I want disciples like that. I want disciples who, when they are pruned in whatever sense it is, they respond to it positively, creatively, with perseverance, with initiative. And ultimately, they respond in a way that produces enduring fruit, abundant fruit for the Kingdom of God.’ And that’s why this week’s passage is so powerful in meaning and, I think, challenging for all of us.
We certainly have to have a spirit of humility, of docility, and part of our spirit of humility, whenever we experience moments in life where we feel like we’re being pruned, or cut back, or that a particular area that we want to grow in is being blocked or cut off, we need to stop and ask how we are responding to those moments.
You see, we can respond to those moments with self-pity, with frustration, with anger, with blind determination or tunnel vision. Or we can respond to moments like that by prayerfully asking the question, ‘How can this be the work of the Holy Spirit? What is the growth that God is wanting to take place because of this moment of pruning, because of this obstacle that has come in my way?’
And when we begin to pray, when we begin to actually submit to the will of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit, we begin to interpret our lives from God’s perspective. We see possibilities where we never saw them before. Possibilities that are not only in conformity with God’s will, but possibilities that become beautiful opportunities for His Kingdom.
It’s that kind of growth and insight that can not only keep us faithful, but can help us avoid and overcome feelings of self-pity, anger, and frustration. It can really keep us motivated with joy and with peace, so that even a moment of pruning becomes a revelation of God’s hand working in our life. That’s a beautiful approach to life in general, but certainly to ministry itself, too.”
Listen to the full reflection below: