Mau 2, 2021

Today’s Gospel passage talks about the Father as the vinedresser and Jesus as the true vine. We are branches on the vine and need to be attached firmly to Jesus if we are to bear fruit. The passage also speaks about pruning to bear more fruit. It seems counterintuitive at first, but when one knows that most of the branches on a vine or a fruit tree are not fruit wood, it makes perfect sense. The woody growth is depleting nourishment from the developing fruit. The same is true for roses—I like to leave only three or four stalks that are only about 4 inches long. The poor bush looks like a kid with a boot camp haircut, but a lot more blooms appear on the plant that growing season.
So, what are we to “prune” from our lives as missionary disciples? What parts of the average person’s life are not “fruit wood”? Pomology 101 suggests as basic principles for trimming a fruit tree that:
• Start with structure—what is structurally weak, damaged, or out of place? Remove it
• Remove unnecessary barren branches, the branch- es that are not fruit wood, and open the heart of the tree to the sun.
• How much fruit can the tree realistically bear? Shorten branches to prevent the weight of the fruit from damaging the tree. Allow enough fruit wood for a good crop but not too much so that the fruit fails to thrive and be lush.
In our lives, what is a counterproductive attitude or habit? What keeps me bound to the past, especially to life’s hurts? Which relationships are unhealthy, per- haps even sinful? Prune those first. Some examples of the unnecessary might include spending habits, overindulgence in food or drink, using the acquisition of baubles to mask unhappiness or disappointment, keeping too busy in order not to have to sit quietly with oneself for any length of time. Shun darkness and live in the light! Trimming back good fruit wood is difficult at first. Some people cannot limit their involvement in prayer groups, fraternal organizations, organized athletics or musical groups, charitable activities, etc. They try to do everything. St. Leonard Murialdo told the early members of the Congregation of St. Joseph to focus on the boys in their school and to leave the larger affairs of letters and politics to others. What is your niche? Focus on it.
Familiar Gospel passages like this one run the risk of not really being heard. “I heard this before. I already know this story.” Fight that temptation. Be docile, teachable. Be warm wax or soft clay that can be formed and imprinted with a seal. Allow the Holy Spirit to move you to new life, to repentance (re- thinking), and to renewed zeal for the type of evangeli- cal poverty that frees one to be fully alive.

Fr. Leo A. Dechant, CSJ

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.

Sub Tuum Praesidium: “We turn to you for protection, Holy Mother of God. Listen to our prayers and help us in our needs. Save us from every danger, glorious and blessed Virgin.”

The prayer to St. Michael the Archangel: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

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Remember the fact that we can make Spiritual Communions when the sacrament is not available. Use these or your own words: “Lord, I am not able to receive you now sacramentally. Enter into my heart. I embrace you as already there and unite myself to you. Never let me be separated from you.”

Remember that when the sacrament of penance is not available, one should present one’s sorrow directly to God and say a good Act of Contrition. Sins, including mortal ones, are forgiven. When opportunity arises, mention the latter in your next confession just to keep yourself honest. A very simple Act of Contrition that is found in the Rite of Penance is: “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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