Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More
by Angela M Jendro
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45th Sunday of Easter
Read the Gospel of John 15: 1-8
Life in Christ is all about connection. Jesus emphasized it over and again: “Abide in me and I in you,”(v.4), “I am the vine, you are the branches” (v.15), “Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29), “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), “Come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21), “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age”(Matthew 28:20) “ No longer do I call you servants,… but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).
The Word of God which created us in love, wishes to re-create us by grace. He personally heals wounds, corrects faults, frees from oppression, and inspires to higher greatness. Parents don’t give birth to their children and then consider the relationship over. Instead they devote themselves in love to the development and flourishing of their child throughout his or her entire life. Their ability to do this depends on how much connection the child is willing to reciprocate. That connection strengthens their foundation in who they are, anchoring them against the confusion of the world’s conflicting messages and pressures. Similarly, connection to Christ anchors us in our true selves, beloved children of God Who has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
There are paths to holiness, steps one could say that mark advances on the road. Nevertheless, each person’s sanctification is unique and includes steps forward, setbacks, bumps in the road, etc. It’s more of a winding, curvy road than a straight shot. Sanctification isn’t a to-do list with a report card at the end. Rather, it’s the deepening of a relationship with the Lord through His Son and a richer experience of our authentic self. St. Josemaria Escriva encouraged people to just keep turning back to Jesus, Who we find is already there to guide us.
“In this adventure of love we should not be depressed by our falls, not even by serious falls, if we go to God in the sacrament of penance contrite and resolved to improve. A Christian is not a neurotic collector of good behavior reports…Jesus understands our weakness and draws us to himself on an inclined plane. He wants us to make an effort to climb a little each day. He seeks us out just as he did the disciples of Emmaus whom he went out to meet.” ( Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By: Homilies)
Jesus is the life of our soul. He guides the seed of faith to sprout, grow, blossom, and bear fruit. We remain connected to the vine through prayer and the sacraments. Intimate union with Christ through a strong interior life keeps the flow of nutrients and hydration from the roots flowing into the branches. Jesus also prunes away useless or harmful growth which drains nutrients and fruitlessly redirects them. This may be sin, unholy attachments, or even unhealthy people or places in our lives.
Developing an interior life of prayer, of constant connection to Christ, takes time and effort, but will eventually become second nature. Josemaria encouraged, “Although it is not a question of sentiment, little by little the love of God makes itself felt like a rustle in the soul.”
St. Francis de Sales offered wonderful spiritual counsel for how to remain attached to the vine of Christ in his work, Introduction to the Devout Life. First, he distinguished the difference between true and false devotion. Essentially, true devotion is marked by a generous love for Christ that is quick to act when it perceives something that will delight Him, much like a couple in love takes pleasure in doing things that make the other happy. Next, he laid out the purgations necessary to detach us from weeds that choke our relationship, a pruning we do not do by ourselves, but rather intentionally cooperate with the Lord in doing as He cuts them away. Finally, He spends a great deal of time directing how to develop an interior disposition wherein Christ remains always present to our hearts.
“I especially counsel you to practice mental prayer, the prayer of the heart, and particularly that which centers on the life and passion of our Lord. By often turning your eyes on him in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with him.”
In this way we abide in Christ, and by spending so much time with Him we inevitably become like Him. In truth we all pick up the habits and attitude of those we are around – for better or worse. If we want to become proficient in something, we particularly need to spend time with someone accomplished in it and allow them to train us. Similarly, de Sales asserted, by abiding in Christ through cultivating meditation on His life, we will pick up His habits:
“…just as little children learn to speak by listening to their mothers and lisping words with them, so also by keeping close to our Savior in meditation and observing his words, actions, and affections we learn by his grace to speak, act, and will like him.”
I have found this to be so very true in my own life. When I get too busy for prayer or quiet with Christ, my virtues quickly wither along with my joy and love. I become easily agitated, distracted, and far less productive. When I begin with connection to Christ, and recollect Him throughout the day, I feel like the tree planted by running water (cf Jeremiah 17:7-8).
- What fruits do you experience from spending time with Christ in prayer?
- When has Christ pruned something in your life away? How did it cause greater growth afterward? What might He be pruning now?
- Pray with the image of the vine and branches, of Jesus’ connection to you in such a personal way.
- Build in reminders and opportunities for yourself to turn inwardly to Christ throughout the day.
- This could be index cards with Scripture passages taped in frequented spots, wearing a crucifix so you see it each time you glance in a mirror, having a piece of religious art in your common view to remind you of Christ, a small spiritual book you can carry along with you and read for a few minutes periodically, a rosary in your car to pray as you drive, or your music preset to a Christian radio station or playlist.
All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro