I am not sure how things will turn out.
There’s a fence on the border of our back yard, and there are some grape vines just inside the fence, where I planted them more than 20 years ago.
It’s not the best place for grapes to grow. It may even be among the worst places for them. But despite the lack of consistent sunshine and the reality of poorly drained soil, the two vines have survived over the years.
These two vines came from the garden of my mother and father, where my father had cultivated and cared for them for 30 years or so before I moved them to my home.
On a sunny afternoon in late winter, I cut the vines back far more severely than I have ever done before. Now all that remains is the trunk – if that is the right word to call it – of each plant.
That’s not quite all. There are two other plants that have established themselves. They developed after some low-hanging vines came into contact with the soil, and they eventually developed their own root systems.
So now I have not two, but four stems, each with roots but no vines branching out from them.
I hope they will grow, but I am not sure how they will turn out.
I hope they will produce spreading vines that can be managed – not the tangled mass of twisted vegetation that I had allowed to grow along the fence.
* * *
Our scriptures are laden with images of vines and vineyards. One of the earliest graphic references to the riches of the promised land is the huge cluster of grapes that were found there, according to the spies who came back to report to Moses and the people still wandering in the desert. (Numbers 13)
Jesus tells several stories about vineyards and those who own them and those who work in them, and refers to himself as the vine – with us as the branches.
* * *
As I reflect on the images, what strikes me is the promise, secret but strong, in the stem, in the vineyard, in the land. Every vine holds inside of it a promise of growth, a promise of sweet fruit.
Not all of the vines will produce as well as others. Soil and sun will have their impact on the promise, as will what kind of care is given – or held back by those entrusted with the care of the plants.
* * *
Springtime is a wonderful time to observe the promise within us and around us – in the vineyards and gardens, in the herds and flocks, in the Church where new members are preparing for full initiation.
I can’t help but compare the grapes grown by my father and mother with the faith handed down to me from my parents – the same faith I hope is alive and growing in my sons.
During Lent we as a Christian community have the pleasure of seeing the promise – in catechumens and in candidates for full communion. We have a responsibility toward the fulfillment of that promise, to clear away obstacles and to nourish the hope. We should welcome new members into our congregations the way we would welcome a new addition to our small family at home.
* * *
Will you join in the celebration as new members of the Church make a commitment to our community? As they are initiated? Or will you ignore the promise?
After Easter, will you continue to tend the new relationship? Or will you abandon the tender vines to uncertain conditions?
The truth is, we don’t know just how things will work out. Only God knows.
The truth is, God is the giver of the grace that makes the promise possible, yet there is a role for us in God’s great vineyard.
There’s work to be done.
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