September in Pennsylvania is one of the most glorious times of the year. Walking down the driveway this morning to open the gate my heart was lifted by the dew shining on the hemlocks and the leaves gently falling in the breeze. Warm sunny days followed by cool evenings. And oh, the animal sounds. The Canadian geese flying overhead, the barks of grey squirrels and cries of the chippies as they vie for the falling acorns. The pileated woodpeckers making their winter homes. Turkeys calling their flocks together and the deer moving into rutting season. The woods are alive with nature on the move.
And what of us. We humans. Those of us who garden are getting beds ready for Winter. Planting Spring bulbs. We know it’s a great time to plant shrubs and trees, but it’s also time to prune. Of course, most pruning takes place in Spring after the shrubs and trees have flowered, but there are plants that must be taken care of now. Shrub roses come to mind. However most of what gets pruned during the Autumn is dead weight…. dead branches, sucker growth, diseased growth, and anything infected with bugs. This helps the plants and trees grow stronger and healthier in the Spring.
Jesus tells us that his Father is a gardener. He lovingly tends his plants and prunes them carefully so they too will grow strong and healthy as the seasons pass.
“I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”
John 15:1-3 NAB
Now just what does Jesus mean when he says he is the vine? We’re talking about his mystical body. The one that we all belong to, everyone of us, whether we believe it or not. We, God’s plants, are all connected in one beautiful body. What one of us does affects the rest of the body, or to put it more plainly, not one of your actions is done in a vacuum. Every single thing you do affects every other person on the planet, and Jesus is the heart or vine of that body.
So what does God use to prune with? Before you go jumping to conclusions, let me set you straight right now. It’s not war, or disease, or natural disasters, or any other horrible thing you might come up with. It’s as the above quote says …‶the word that I spoke to you.”
Jesus tells his disciples that God prunes with the teachings He gave. When we follow those teachings, pruning is happening. Which teachings you might ask? These…..
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,”
Matt 22:36-40 NAB
The gardener is asking us to love. That’s it. Love. Ourselves, our neighbors, and our God. Every time we love, a piece of diseased limb is pruned off of us, or perhaps somewhere else in that great mystical body. Every time we love we make the vine grow stronger and healthier. And the heavenly gardener smiles.