Today’s readings focus us on the followers of Jesus, and God’s desire that they be fruitful. We begin in Acts with Saul, who even following his miraculous conversion remains suspect to most early Christians. They need proof of Paul’s sincerity, and they need the witness of someone as trusted as Barnabas who would put his reputation on the line as he vouched for Paul. It’s not easy to move past Paul’s actions, and building trust takes time. Paul kept his eyes and his ministry focused on Jesus, and not on what others thought of him. Eventually those with open hearts and minds were able to see that God could use even him – because God’s love for him never wavered, and God’s vision of the man he had called him to be never dimmed. Yet, it was a process… Today’s reading from 1 John reminds us, that “even when our hearts condemn us; God is greater than our hearts…” Even when our hearts condemn us, only God’s Truth matters…
The early Church received from Jesus a gauge for recognizing the authenticity of someone’s claims: judge them by their fruit. It still holds true today. Our actions will often reveal what is deepest in our hearts – and this is true not only about others, but also about ourselves. Sometimes we can be surprised at the words that slip from our mouths or the telling activities we can get embroiled in. But spiritual giants tell us that to reflect honestly on our day can sensitize us to signs that something is amiss in our lives. George Aschenbrenner, SJ wrote his famous booklet “Examen of Consciousness” as an aid for our journey. He wrote: “Examen is related to discernment. Whereas in discernment the prime concern is not with the morality of good or bad actions; rather the concern is with the way God is affecting and moving us (often quite spontaneously!) deep in our own affective consciousness.” It matters little whether or not others approve or disapprove. What matters is whether we can recognize what God is trying to do in our lives, and how we have responded.
Jesus said that when a vine needs pruning, only the Vinedresser can prune it, with his expert eye and skilled hands. God looks on in love, and sadly recognizes the earliest signs that our hearts are not totally grounded in him. God gently gives us signs that all is not well, but it is easy to ignore them, and to allow weeds to slowly infiltrate the garden he has been cultivating. It is a sign of God’s unwavering love for us and confidence in us that he continues to lead us to the truth that will set us free. Pruning can be a painful experience, but without it, no growth can happen, no fruit can endure.
Our Lenten journey should have opened our eyes to our own need for pruning, and helped us to recognize the love with which God directs that process. Easter reveals that God’s desire is always and only resurrection: LIFE erupting from ashes, and joy from the depths of despair.
- S. Patrice Yarborough
Sisters of St. Mary of Namur . 241 Lafayette Avenue . Buffalo, New York 14213 . (716) 884-8221