By Clara Meier

Tending the Vine

 

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. ~ John 15:4

 

As a child growing up on a farm, each spring was marked by excitement! My dad had the big job of ordering seed corn to plant the fields, but my mom and I got to make plans to plant the family vegetable garden. Planting the garden was a huge deal, as it literally put food on our table, not just for the summer but throughout the winter. The outcome of our labors resulted in canned green beans, tomatoes, pickles, and whatever else we grew. We had a huge root cellar and could store potatoes, squash, and carrots there. Frozen sweet corn was also a big project. I planted a garden throughout all those childhood years and even through several years early in my marriage, all with the hope of nourishing my family, both in the immediate and future.

Tending the Garden

And so, we purchased the plants and seeds, tilled the soil, and planted. It was hard work! At first, the effort looked so futile. Seeds were buried in the dirt, and small plants were spaced a foot apart. As a very small child, I often tried to “cheat” by planting the plants closer together or not covering the seeds. But I did grow to understand the lessons my mother was teaching me. In planting the garden properly, it was intended to bear good fruit, or in this case, good vegetables. She even taught me which vegetables needed to be picked so their vines would continue to produce!

Tending the garden didn’t end with the planting. The garden required continued care right up until harvest and beyond. Even as our Lord plants the seeds of goodness within us, it is up to us to continually tend them for good growth. We have the choice to continue to prune the bad from our lives and to nourish the good.

The very special vine in this gospel required tending, which is very much a reflection of the tending our faith requires. Receiving the Sacraments, attending religious education, and attending church are not the full depth of tending required to remain fruitful in the Lord. So much more is needed!

As my gardens grew over the years, I often found myself tired of gardening by July. The Midwestern heat and humidity, the energy required to provide water to the vegetables, and pulling weeds became too much. Dealing with grasshoppers, hail, and extreme heat were great trials to endure when one hoped to have vegetables to put away for the winter.

On top of the usual life tasks I had on my list, like cooking, cleaning, caring for children, and going to work, the added chore of tending my garden had me worn thin by midsummer.  I really had to press myself into gardening tasks at that time of year. We were just coming into the home stretch, and failing to weed and water would result in a failure of effort after investing so much time and energy in the early part of the spring and summer. This failure would, in turn, result in a lack of harvest.

So, too, in our faith life! We may have parents who took us to church and religious instruction, who tended us as the fruit of their vine. Then we grew up and went out on our own. Suddenly, that effort to continue to practice the faith seems too much.

Moving out of the house may place us in a secular situation where no one else attends Mass. Going to Mass alone in a strange new community can be scary! Finding time to pray daily, stay current with church life, and practice outwardly seems to take a back seat. And, let’s be honest: sometimes it is downright thrilling to see what will happen if one chooses to “walk on the wild side.”

One needs to put in work to remain on the vine. Jesus is there tending us, but we may decide to listen to another voice instead and fall away to that “easier” way of life, where there aren’t the gigantic requirements of nurturing our faith life.

Remain in the Vine

I did eventually cease gardening. I remember the summer I decided it would be my last “big garden.” It was the year I no longer had summers off. I had two small children at home. I realized that coming home and trying to be the best mom I could be while canning green beans just was not possible. It had to be one or the other! We had other ways of obtaining green beans, but caring for my children was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Taking them through toddler hood, grade school, and high school couldn’t be repeated. Green beans (and other vegetables) were readily available on the grocery shelf.

So, too, with your faith life. How you approach it may change over the years. You will surely outgrow the young moms’ group. Or college youth group. Or high school youth group. There are other ways to prune your faith life on the vine, to keep it growing and invigorating. But it will change over the course of your lifetime. Prayer and faith practice should remain in the center of your life, but how you get it there is bound to change and grow, depending on the other obligations of your life.

As we consider that we are in the spring of the year, the season of new growth, Easter season, we should look at our lives and consider how we are incorporating our faith life into the rest of our lives to fully enrich every part of our lives.

 

Prayer

Father in heaven, please allow me to grow in you each and every day, as I go about the ordinary things of my everyday life.

Call to Action

In this new season of spring and rebirth, look at how you pray.  Are you setting aside time each day to meet the Lord for a visit?  Do you have friends you can join to meet the Lord together?  If not, what can you do to adjust your life and let the Lord in more, during this season of your life?

 

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