The Divine Dialogue of God with the Soul
by Mother Marie Julie, SCMC
My Dear Good People,
Today we celebrate the Fifth Week of Easter with a beautiful Gospel. Jesus talks about how closely He wants to be united to us and us to Him (Jn. 15: 1–8). He uses the image of the vine and the branches: the branches (that would be you and I) can’t survive if we aren’t united to the vine (Jesus), nor can we flourish if we are choked by anything around us (worldly attachments, distractions, sin). It sounds quite forthright, easy to understand.
When I returned to Connecticut about ten years ago after a decade spent in the Midwest, I found many changes on our property. Hurricane Sandy had just happened; it blew the roof off one of the main sections of our Motherhouse, and many trees had been destroyed. The top of ‘The Hill’ had previously been a lovely area directly behind the Motherhouse, with stands of towering trees, beautifully shaped once-flowering bushes, a grotto, and a sweet little guesthouse. There was a gathering of evergreen trees (firs) there that didn’t survive Sandy. One fell on the guesthouse, others had there tops lopped off, and many branches were strewn about the property. I hardly recognized the area that had become so familiar to me over the forty plus years I had come to call The Hill ‘mine.’
When the damage was cleared away, we found an old tree that we had barely known was there, so crowded had she become by the copse of pines that once stood there. This smaller tree now stood by herself, crippled, gnarled, twisted–not by Sandy but by her reaching for the sun that hadn’t smiled on her for a long, long time. We were surprised by her tenacity, but she was painful to look at. We had ignored her, forgotten her for decades, until now she stood alone, crying out as it were to the empty space around her, as though longing for the tall brothers and sisters that had so recently embraced her by their soft, green arms. We thought to cut her down, this lone survivor of the hurricane, but something about her story nudged something in us that wanted to give her a chance.
There she stood through the long winter that year, looking more and more forlorn, solitary, bent, boughs wrapped around each other as she shivered in the cold. Was there any hope for her?
Then came Spring and lo, that May, she seemed to undergo a resurrection, mirroring the Resurrection of Our Lord that Easter. Gradually she began to show small buds peeking around and through the gnarls and crooked branches, until one day we looked up and there was a profusion of magnificent magnolia blossoms that completely covered the branches that held them. We nearly cried with joy.
That was eight years ago, and during these intervening years her branches have begun to untwist themselves so that she is now taller, definitely straighter, and she never fails to proudly throw a rapture first of pink, then vibrant greens on The Hill. And when the blossoms gracefully fall and create a carpet below her, she is the crowning glory where once she was a dying victim.
What does this have to do with today’s Gospel in John, 15: 1-8, I am the Vine, you are the branches? Well, it seems a bit obscure, but I am reminded of her as I think of myself as a small, crooked branch on the elegant flowering Vine of the Mystical Body of Christ. As our little Maganolia thought her life depended on the taller, majestic trees surrounding her, she never knew that it was the solid vine, the trunk, that supported her and held her lifeblood. Only when she was stripped of what she thought she needed did she come to learn that as long as her crooked, failing branches held on to the vine, she would prosper, and grow to the tree she was meant to be.
Sometimes we lean on the wrong ‘support:’ we know what they are for each one of us individually. But those ‘supports’ can smother us, even while they seem to be protecting us, and we don’t become the flaming vibrant person we have been called to be. Jesus must be the root of our lives, the strong support, the perfect One from Whom we take all we need to fulfill the Father’s plan for us. When we look to the Son for our source of strength than we find ourselves at peace, even in the midst of storms, knowing, or perhaps not quite knowing that after the clouds and the winds and the darkness, He will allow us to blossom.
What ‘towers of seeming strength’ or influences, whether jobs or money or reputation or hobbies or constructs prevent me from being the person God calls us to be? Only I can answer that question for me–with the help of the Holy Spirit. Today let us hear the sweet words of Jesus, Without Me you can do nothing.
Today, may we give God permission to untwist any crooked boughs we have, and reach out to Him in absolute trust. Then we will blossom.
God bless you, everyone, this first weekend in May.