On Pruning

Our Word and Welcome To It is a blog which features the summary of a particular homilist's reflections on this Sunday's readings. I reproduce that portion of the blog because I was struck by how much I can relate to this protrayal of Saint Paul in exile:

In his homily today, Fr. Welzbacher...spoke of Jesus' message in the Gospel, as related in John 15:1: "Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." He looked at this saying in the context of the life of Paul, as it appeared in the first reading from Acts (9:30).

Paul had become an outspoken, fervent advocate of Christianity. He spoke boldly, often at risk of his life. His reward for this faithfulness, apparently, was exile. He was sent to Tarsus where for three years he did - nothing. He lived there ignored, left alone, apparently with nothing to do. It must have seemed to him as if he'd been completely forgotten by the Church, that all his works had been for naught. Perhaps some of the most fertile, productive years of his life - lost, wasted, amounting to nothing. What possible good would he be able to do, just sitting there?

Of course, we know better. Paul grew during those three years; grew in wisdom and understanding, so that when he did emerge it was with a fervor and knowledge that soon eclipsed that of the other disciples. He would go on to write most of the New Testament, travel throughout most of the known world evangelizing, teaching and converting, before suffering a martyr's death. His life was anything but a waste.

It was all part of the pruning process. Jesus promised that those who bore fruit would be pruned, that they might go on to produce more for Him. Paul's apparent "exile" was part of that process, a process that all of us who might fashion ourselves disciples of Christ will undergo at some point in time. It may be a painful, even harsh, process; and when it happens, when it feels as if we're alone and ignored, that our lives are wasting away, that we maybe we are even being punished for our beliefs, we can look back to the life of Paul, and the words of Jesus, and know that it is not a punishment, not a waste of time. It is part of our reward, part of the favor with which Christ looks on His disciples. We listen to His words, we remember the example of Paul, and we take faith in the knowledge that through God all things work for His good.

I have found myself- and I daresay, so have many others my age- in this state of being pruned. We don't know precisely how God is at work in our lives; we simply know that he is at work in our lives. We rest secure in that knowledge though we may be toiling away in various states of emotional and spiritual duress.

Though few of us privileged citizens of this great nation endure suffering like our fellow Christians in other parts of the world, we know that we live in a milieu antithetical to Christ's. We know that we come up against mindsets that are foreign to our Catholic sensibilities and upbringing. And we are called to show love that is rarely returned- and in fact may be treated with disdain or even contempt.

It is not outright persecution; very often it's mere indifference. We are strange anomalies, curiosities, those of us who choose to remain faithful to the Rock. We are not to impose upon or limit the horizons of those who have chosen to abandon the narrow way. We are not to suggest that they have in any way sold themselves short.

No- we must keep our opinions to ourselves and speak only in platitudes. We hold our obedience in faith silently, knowing our Beloved draws near, pruning shears in hand. O Jesus I Trust in YOU~

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