Connected for life
That is what people sometimes say when looking at an adult for whom life has not gone so well.
The expression brings us back to a time when we were small and vulnerable and when there was a person who cared for us and loved us unconditionally.
Sad to say, there are some among us who cannot recall such a time or whose memories of childhood are not so pleasant.
On this day which many celebrate as "Mothers' Day," it is good for us to honor and pray for our mothers and those who showed us a mother's love.
It is also a good day to remember these wonderful words of the Lord from the prophet Isaiah (49:15):
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
No matter what we may have or may not have in our lives, God himself is ultimately the one who gives us life, sustenance, and love - as today's readings remind us.
In today's Gospel (John 15:1-8), our Lord uses the well-known metaphor of himself as the life-giving vine.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you
unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me
and I in him
will bear much fruit,
because without me
you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want
and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples.
No matter how happy, unhappy, or mixed our lives have been, the Lord is always there: the true vine from which we can draw life - life that bears real fruit, fruit that will last.
What we need to do is remain firmly attached to this vine, deeply rooted in Christ.
How do we do that?
First of all, of course, we are attached to Christ by his grace.
The second thing that is associated with adherence to Christ is keeping his word and his commandments, as we hear in the Gospel and in today's second reading (1 John 3:18-24):
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments
remain in him,
and he in them.
A third aspect of remaining in Christ follows from the metaphor of vine and branches: total openness.
Just as the life of the vine must flow fully within the branch, so must we let Christ permeate every aspect of our being: our mind, our soul, our heart, our lives, everything! We do this in our prayer, in the Sacraments, in reading his Word, and in integrating his teachings which we receive in the deposit of faith..
Likewise we must let that which we receive from Christ flow out of us into the fruit that we must bear.
Finally, it is important for us to make sure continually that we remain firmly rooted in Christ.
One important way to do this, which fits the metaphor of this Gospel quite well, is our Lord's dictum in Matthew 7:16: By their fruits you shall know them.
If we do not feel that we are spiritually productive or our lives do not feel spiritually fruitful, it may be a "desert" experience but it also may be a sign that not all is right in our relationship with the Lord.
Another measure for discernment is given in the second reading:
The way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.
St. John in the following chapter goes on to speak of discernment of spirits (chiefly by a test of orthodoxy) but it is also good to recall the classic Fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.
On this day when many celebrate Mothers and other maternal figures through whom we received life, we do well to recall how we need to be receiving life through Christ as branches on the vine and thus bear fruit in the Holy Spirit of God for ourselves and those around us.