Joined to the Vine

A few weeks ago, we heard the Gospel of the vine and the branches: Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. Folks are still talking about the homily from that day, which demonstrated Jesus as the vine and dozens of people - the liturgical ministers from that particular Mass - forming a sloppy, winding, multi-branched vine streaming into the church aisles, but connected back to Jesus before the altar. It was a graphic illustration, and it was fun!
 
The most important part of the demonstration, however, was our experience of the great reality of Jesus and ourselves as the vine and the branches joined so closely that we share the very same bloodstream – the Holy Spirit. Union with Jesus is life; separation is death.
 
Suzy Fodor LeSage of the Notre Dame Club of Dallas writes:
 

My family loves a vineyard hidden at the end of a climbing tractor road. The borne wine from the vineyard’s fruit tastes like the fog hanging around the deer-trailed evergreens, dusty earth, concentrated wild blackberries, and bay laurel trees. 
 
Vitis vinifera, the botanical classification for many grapevines, derives from the Latin word for life-giver:  vitae. Vineyards overflow in a vigorous, irrepressible life force. Growing vines require no supplemental fertilizer and only a little irrigation. Vines know how to access life’s energy.

 
I found this startling: the vines don’t need fertilizer, they live and thrive and produce wonderful grapes almost “on their own.”  It is a Jesus-message for us, folks. Being joined to Christ is so powerful that he nourishes us and grows us and keeps us healthy and vibrant.
 
As we have launched into the summer season, many of us find ourselves in vacation mode. “Vacation” is from the Latin “vacare,” meaning “to empty.”  While the original intention was that we free our lives from work responsibilities for a time, many of us don’t stop there. We empty ourselves of even the important things like prayer, worship, attempting to live moral lives.  Our actions say very clearly, “OK, Lord.  I’m taking a break from you. See you in September.”
 
A branch is removed from the vine only by being broken from it. The “Snap!” is as jarring and unsettling as a bone breaking. As soon as I turn away from prayer or Mass, then I become not a branch, but a stick; not green and fruitful, but drying up and ready for the flames.
 
Jesus does not use this image of vine and branches lightly. Even the decision to take only a short break from him, from faith, is deadly and dangerous. Stay joined to the Vine this summer. Let him hold you, care for you, and bless you.