“I am the vine, you are the branches…By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
(John 15:1-8, the gospel at Holy Mass today)
I know my memory is slipping, but I could have sworn that I just gave you a homily on this very passage.
Last year, on the fifth Wednesday of Easter, we discussed the pruning of the branches. God pruning our little shoots of ego can cause even more pain than that other type of cutting that they debated at the apostolic Council of Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit taught the first generation of Christians that Baptism suffices to engraft Gentiles onto the vine. The Greek men rejoiced.
“You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (John 15:3)
Almighty God has spoken in Christ, and we have believed. The “we” including: our parents, godparents, and/or other guardians who carried us to the baptismal font when we were infants, most of us. And all the other people whose strong faith has sustained us, especially our patron saints up in heaven who have prayed for us our whole lives.
God’s pruning the tendrils of our egos involves our constant engagement with the faith of our great family, the Church.
And this may be the most humbling thing of all: Namely, for me to acknowledge that my mind, powerful as it may be; acquainted with Shakespeare, or astrophysics, or high finance, or detailed mechanical engineering as it may be; as brilliant an orator, or tactician, or interior decorator, or pet trainer as any of us may be individually… These great minds of ours, in fact, can do no greater thing than to believe what countless generations of short, little, stubborn, simple-minded Russian babushkas have believed: that Jesus Christ is God.
Smart, clever, talented: all great things, to be sure. But humbly believing in what our grandparents and great-grandparents believed in, in what St. Francis and St. Joseph, neither of whom had any real delusions of grandeur, believed in–believing the faith of the Church, because it is bigger than me: that’s even greater than talent, smarts, skill, success.
Humbling, yes. But hopefully consoling also.