Easter Sunday was a month ago already and here we are in early May. Spring is moving towards summer and there is growth everywhere – nature itself is proclaiming the glory of resurrection. How else can we begin to grasp this amazing mystery of life out of death!
After the winter months seeds and bulbs that appeared to rot in the ground have now burst forth in life: plants, shrubs and trees are full of flowers many of which are harbingers of summer fruit yet to come. So, when Jesus says “I am the vine” and tells us that we are the branches, what does he want us to know and understand? What are we being invited to contemplate? Could it be that he is drawing us into the mystery of God, a mystery of growth and fruitfulness. This is a reality that is all around us in the natural world, the only world in which we live and from which we draw life.
So, what is it that gives growth and leads to fruit? The good earth, sunshine and water all combine in mysterious harmony to produce life. Jesus would have us know that we have our roots in the creator God, we are turned towards Jesus the light who has overcome the darkness and we are watered by the spring of the Spirit that gushes up within us. (John 7:37-39). We are being invited to embrace a wonderful reality, a beautiful and profound truth that apart from him we are lifeless.
Hopefully, in these days we are moving away from the worst of the Covid pandemic, and the time is coming when we can gather again. In this, our second Covid spring, is there a lesson to be learned about God, fruitfulness and presence? Over the last year or more, many of us have attended Eucharist via webcam; no doubt we have often heard recited the prayer for Spiritual communion:
I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.
The more the lockdown went on, the more this prayer troubled me. It seems gives the lie to what we are talking about today. It seems to say that Jesus, the true vine, is only really available to us when we receive Holy Communion, and that means we undervalue both the Eucharist as the Sacrament of the community and the presence of the Spirit of the risen Lord who remains (dwells, lives, abides) in us at all times. As we begin to gather again, let us not be afraid to contemplate the ways in which we have grown and been fruitful (or not) and let us give thanks for the hope and power of Easter and the call to fruitfulness in this new time.