Saturday, May 9, 2009

Vine Grower and Vine

(5th Sunday of Easter, B)

I spent one of my summers when I was in formation in the Order living with the friars in our novitiate in Nueva Ocotepeque, Honduras. The novice master was a very wise friar and he said to the novices, “I can’t see your soul, so I need to see how you take care of a living thing.” So he assigned each of the young novice friars a little patch of ground outside the friary, maybe two or three square feet. Each one was to grow something in his little garden, and care for it.

I bring this up because it will help us to explore the image of the Blessed Trinity that we have in the gospel today, and especially because it will help us to understand what the Trinity means for us.

Jesus says, “I am true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” We have God the Father and God the Son, the vine grower and the vine. And where is the third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit? The Spirit is the love and care that the Father puts into and transmits to the vine in the course of his care for it as vine grower. So here’s our image of the Trinity: Gardener or Vine Grower, Vine, and the Love and Care the Grower transmits to the Vine and which is reflected in its growth.

Now we ourselves imitate the Blessed Trinity whenever we too are involved in the care of a living thing, whether as the caregiver or the one cared for. This should not be too surprising; as know from Scripture, we are created in the “image and likeness of God.” Now if God is a Trinity then we are created in the image and likeness of that Blessed Trinity, and our likeness to the Trinity should be revealed in our best selves. And so it is. Whenever we are involved in a relationship in which caring and creative love is transmitted between two living things, we become an image of the Blessed Trinity who is Vine Grower, Vine, and Loving Care.

This is why a mutual relationship of tender, caring, creative love is the thing that makes us most happy as human beings, because it is how we both image and imitate the perfect mystery of dynamic Love that we call Father, Son, and Spirit. Like my brothers the novices in Honduras, when we care lovingly for a living thing we are at our best and most happy as images and likenesses of God.

Now, as if this weren’t enough, here’s the real good news: Jesus makes us into part of the vine that he is. We are the branches of the vine. When he allows his body to be broken on the Cross, his wounds open a path for us into his divine humanity. And so, in Christ, we have the opportunity to not only imitate the Blessed Trinity but to become part of him. This is what we really celebrate when we gather here for Mass; that we become the Body of Christ, and that our loving care for each other and for the world might be empowered to do everything that the Body of Christ does: announce peace, heal, and ultimately break itself open for the salvation of others.

We who are Christians are the branches on the vine that is the Son, receiving the tender care of the Father. We are the limbs of the Body of Christ. This is our dignity and our joy: that we are drawn up into the perfect, infinite, and dynamic love that is the Blessed Trinity of God.

(Comments are especially invited on the question of whether or not I have violated the filioque with this homily. ;-))

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