“Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15: 5); we hear these words from Jesus in our Gospel reading this week. This is a lesson that is taking me a lifetime to learn, and in fact, is still a work in progress. More the second part of the statement than the first, as I don’t think there is much to debate in the first part. Having said that, there is not much to debate in the second part either, but please don’t tell my ego that. I have a long list of times I have ventured out on my own with less than desirable results.
Hindsight being 20/20, I can tell looking back that most of the occasions that brought me grief (of my own doing) was when I would react to something someone said or did in the moment, with my mouth going much faster than my brain. As I get older, I am seeing the value in silence until I can re-confirm my connection to the vine through prayer, and then respond as opposed to reacting. The wisdom in the old saying, “keep your words soft and sweet, because one day you may have to eat them” is becoming more apparent to me with each passing year.
When Kim and I were brand new parishioners at St. Augustine’s many years ago, there was a wonderful priest there named Fr. Ledwig Doyle. He was an assistant to Fr. Peter McKee and he exuded kindness and love. While ministering there he suffered a stroke which greatly affected his speech. I can remember Fr. Peter being asked by the Archbishop one day how Fr. Doyle was doing. Fr. Peter said, “Good, but he really has to think for a bit before he can speak”. The Bishop replied, “Pretty good advice for all of us, don’t you think?”
Turn on the news any given night and you will witness so much rhetoric. Whether it be from the United States, Canada, China, the U.K, etc., no one seems to be immune. In a time, globally and domestically, when we should be coming together to meet the many challenges that face us, our leaders seem more concerned with political posturing and playing to their base to insure re-election. And not just our leaders, we need to evaluate the roll we play in reducing suffering and conflict in our own lives. How do I respond to people who may not share my beliefs? or my thoughts on the church? or my views on polarizing social issues such as abortion or medical assistance in dying? Am I willing to acknowledge that the people who disagree with me are just as connected to the same vine that I am? To answer this for myself, I have to go back to an event in my family that happened years ago that has come to shape a lot of what I believe about church. I was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic home where God and Church came first and everything else second. When I was in my early teens, my older brother decided to leave the Catholic Church to become a Baptist minister. There are no words to adequately describe the upheaval in our family and the hurt, on both sides, that this caused. It was then that I learned that fighting over religion is the complete antithesis to what Jesus came to teach us.
Since then, I have worked hard to understand that the world does not have to agree with me, nor do I have to agree with whatever is currently popular thinking in the world. We can peacefully co-exist respecting each other and honouring the dignity we all have as children of God. That is the glue that binds us all together, and, also keeps us all connected to that vine. Remember, whenever you use the phrase, “us and them”, there is no them.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity