Wednesday, 5/17/17 — The Lifelong Process of Growing With God

I became a first-time homeowner seven years ago. The folks I grew up with rented their entire lives, and I did so until my 30s, so I didn’t really have a foundational appreciation of what homeownership was. However, I’ve thrown myself into it with great aplomb.

One aspect I hadn’t really appreciated was the idea of home improvements. There’s always something that needs doing. Sometimes it’s minor repairs: a squeaky door, that broken ledge in the refrigerator, the scuff of paint in the hallway. Sometimes it’s general upkeep: mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, rearranging the garage. Sometimes it’s sorting out more serious repairs: saving the money for a new roof, planning for when we can remove the dead tree in the back yard.

Regardless, there’s always something that needs to be done. There’s never a point — nor will there ever be a point — where I can say, “Whew! The house is totally taken care of… I don’t need to worry about that anymore!”

You know who else always has something they can be doing? Gardeners. Between weeding, watering, pruning, planting, transplanting, there’s always something to do in the growing season. And during the dormant months, you need to plan for the next growing season, as well as do certain chores that are easier than during the growing season, like trimming back errant trees.

In today’s gospel selection from John, Jesus offers his own gardening analogy: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit . . . 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.”

So, this reading makes clear the connection between God the Father, God the Son, what they do for us, and their expectations for us. We know we can’t live without God. We know that – to bear the fruit the Father wishes – we need to rely on God for support, for a foundation, for . . . everything.

But, as I noted earlier, there’s also an underlying current about growing here, too; namely, that it is a process. A good branch is expected to keep producing good fruit . . . indefinitely, really. And that fruit is expected to be useful on its own, whether feeding others or serving as the seed for a future plant.

When I’m working on my house, I know and understand that it will never be “perfect.” There will always be something that can be improved, something else that could be added on or replaced. But I can envision what a perfect house might look like, and my efforts move me – however imperfectly – toward that vision in my mind’s eye.

Similarly, gardeners cannot produce a perfect garden with their own hands, but they understand what that perfection might look like, what that final flawless grove might resemble.

God calls us to do what we can to bring the Kingdom of Heaven here to Earth. He calls us despite knowing that we cannot bring this Kingdom about by our imperfect selves, and that the perfect Kingdom already exists . . . in Heaven. We are called to look to Christ as an example and ultimate guide, knowing that we cannot attain that perfection on our own.

Jesus reminds us that the plan is to grow with God the Father and Christ the Son all the days of our lives, producing good fruit. It’s a process; we may stumble or grow incorrectly, but we trust in the vine grower — the Father — to set us right. And when we don’t feel like we have enough support, we should remind ourselves that the perfect true vine — Jesus — is always there to provide aid and guidance.

When working on a house or a garden, arguably the worst thing you can do is nothing at all. The same goes for growing with God; to refuse to grow and be with Him is . . . well, fruitless. He, as ever, works with our imperfections to help us bear good fruit. And, again, it’s a process — one that will hopefully last the rest of our lives . . . and beyond.

Today’s readings: Acts 15:1-6; Ps 122:1-2,3-4AB,4CD-5; Jn 15:1-8

About the Author

Despite being a professional writer and editor for over 15 years, Steven Marsh is more-or-less winging it when it comes to writing about matters of faith. Steven entered the church in 2005, and since then he's been involved with various ministries, including Pre-Cana marriage prep for engaged couples, religious education for kindergarteners, and Stephen Ministry's one-on-one caregiving. Steven lives in Indiana with his wife and son. Despite having read the entirety of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he's still surprised at elements he rediscovers or reflects upon in new ways. The more Steven learns about the faith, the less he feels he knows; he's keen to emphasize that any mistakes are his own.

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  1. Thank you Steven for this GREAT REFLECTION. The GOOD LORD has spoken to me through you. I want to believe that for as long as I am alive, it means that GOD is in ME and with ME. A dead tree cannot have branches nor produce fruit. Our GOD is not ‘dead ‘ and JESUS, who we FOLLOW, is ALIVE SPIRITUALLY . So let us PRAY and BELIEVE that for the many times that we are with the GOOD LORD, we shall go through the CHALLENGES of this LIFE and SURVIVE. ….

  2. Thanks Steven for your wonderful reflection. It reminds me how imperfect I am without Christ Jesus who makes everything perfect. May the Lord God help us to remain in Him and Him in us so that we may bring forth better fruits from our labouring and so that we may not labour in vain

  3. Thanks Steve for a remarkable reflection. The analogy with gardening drove home the point-no one can claim to have utter perfection in his/her walk with God. Very much appreciated,God bless.

  4. Thank you for this reflection Steven. May God help us to grow with him and produce good fruit. Amen.

  5. Great reflection! In the house analogy it can be trying as your right something always to be done but nothing a Master carpenter can’t handle. On the garden analogy. Please allow me to put it this way, We don’t grow anything on our own, you made this clear in your analogy but as God is omnipresent we work in the garden together with him to grow the garden, obey him and improve our relationship together with him as we do it. Then the fruit gets enjoyed together. Carpenters enjoy the fruits of their work the same way. Much love to the body of Christ. Thanks all.

  6. Thank you Steven. Raising my 4 young children and growing my own flower garden, I can definitely appreciate the analogy of the vine and the branches. It is a beautiful way to hopefully grow in Jesus. I pray I am doing enough for Him, and my heart will rejoice.

  7. Very poignant for me today. Your reflection speaks to a lot that’s been weighing on my heart. Thank you for sharing your fruits with all of us.

  8. Thanks brother Steven for the great job.
    Your use of the different imagery brought home the deep meaning of today’s gospel reading to me.
    May you be richly blessed with His grace.

  9. Thanks brother Steven for the great work .
    Your use of imagery brought home the deep meaning of today’s gospel reading to me.May you be richly blessed with His grace.

  10. The house and garden analogy struck a cord with me. Thanks for another great reflection!

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