10 May 2009

A Time to Pick, A Time to Prune

With spring well underway and summer quickly approaching, the monastery garden grows ever more colorful each day (thanks, in no small part, to our gardenin' angels: the sisters who plant a flower here, a bulb there and lovely trios of colorful delights that Sister Mary Blogger couldn't begin to pronounce!) Above, Sister Mada-anne prunes a rosebush while Nick, the monastery watchdog , takes a moment from his snoopervising to pose for the camera.

Today's Gospel speaks a very uncomfortable truth in "garden lingo." Our Lord tells us that the Heavenly Vine-grower will discard any branch that does not bear fruit (sound fair enough) and will prune those that do bear fruit (ouch) so that they may bear more fruit. Anyone who has gardened can attest to these maxims. Pumpkin growers who yield fruit that weigh hundreds of pounds are able to do so only because they pinched off all other fruit bearing flowers from their vine. Strawberry farmers who plant a new crop know the importance of pinching the first fruit-bearing flowers so as to ensure a hearty crop for future years.

And so it is very similar in our own lives. We may feel as though we have made progress in a particular area of our spiritual life or that we have been involved in a worthwhile and fruitful ministry and all of a sudden we find ourselves facing an unexpected impasse. We may feel discouraged or hurt; it can be tempting to ask why God would permit such good "progress" to be frustrated. Sometimes this pruning can take the form of ridicule or unjust accusations; other times it can be experienced as tension in some of our relationships. Whatever form it takes, if we stop and look carefully at our situation, we just might find that it is a call to go deeper into our relationship with the Lord -- to trust Him and to depend on Him more than we have in the past. It is these moments of pruning, of being "cut back", that serve as gateways into fertile fields of growth. We need only to trust the Vine-grower as He clips and trims us.

"Be sure that, if they should succeed in rousing any evil impression against you (clipping the beard of your reputation, as it were), your good name will soon revive, and the razor of slander will strengthen your honour, just as the pruning-knife strengthens the vine and causes it to bring forth more abundant fruit."
St. Francis de Sales

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