Wine comes in so many flavors, colors, taste, and varieties that people have wine tasting parties to find out what kind of wine they prefer. I have never gone to any of these parties because I have a low tolerance for alcohol. Why do I say that I cannot go to any parties? Being I am Irish just a touch of alcohol makes my face turn red and all can tell I have had been drinking. God saved me from drinking too much.
It is a good thing for me then I did not live in the Middle East where wine was a staple and all drank the delicious fruited beverage. I did some research on growing grape vines. I found out that the gardener checks every grape plant in the spring to see if any new branches are growing from the vine. If the branches are lying on the ground and are attached to the vine stem, the gardener picks up the new branch, washes the dirt off, and then ties it to the fence. This is how he knows the small vine stem will not get trampled and not be broken off. If all goes well, the new branches will become healthy and many grapes will be forthcoming.
In this story God is the gardener or vine grower and watches the garden closely. God is constantly alert to the changes in each grape plant. God watches out for all of the plants in the Jesus Our Shepherd wine grove. God, our loving Gardener, inspects each of us to see if we are growing correctly. God is very moved when he sees that some of the grape vines have been trampled and broken by unseen people. That means that God must prune a branch here and there because the branch will not grow. Sometimes that is how life is. People can trample us and knock us down that we need God’s help to recover. The pruning will be quick and give us a chance to recover. Sometimes we have become detached from the vine because of our neglect or lack of focus because our vision of life has changed or that our situation in life must be refocused. God again prunes us and urges us to come back to the vine and believe that God has chosen us for important tasks. Pruning can be painful but as God prunes new directions and new patterns emerge that allow us to look at our responsibilities differently. A new Holy Vision will emerge that will help us see what is needed for ourselves and the community.
How are we to know what God wants of us? How do we know what to do when we feel we have been pruned by God or trampled by others? Jesus has given us the answer later on in this Gospel selection. Jesus says that we need to remain in him in all things. This is the key to our dilemma. We must remain faithful to Jesus’ teachings in all things. How are we to do this? Sometimes the word of God seems ambiguous. This last week was a dilemma. The events in Baltimore challenged us to really think. We had people marching. We had a man murdered. We had black and white shouting and disobeying the law. We had to make decisions about racial inequality and years and years of neglect. We had to look again at the looting and violence and make decisions about what happened and how we can start anew. There are many ways to be faithful to Jesus’ teachings but remain faithful to ideals of Jesus’ teaching.
I am not advocating breaking the law or looting or burning. But we have to acknowledge that the years of oppression and lack of sufficient economic access does factor into the burning of Baltimore. Violence breeds more violence. To follow Jesus means that we have to have open minds and open hearts to help all communities come together for more dialogue and more understanding.
Wine will be used in today’s Eucharist. May we use the wine that will be changed into the Blood of Christ help open our minds to the way God wants us to change our attitudes and way of being?