We are constantly taking in information. If you’re reading this blog, point in case. We’re so used to it, it has become the norm for those privileged to have easy access to the internet– hardly several hours (much less a whole day) goes by without most of us getting online, checking email, reading the news, twitter, facebook, blogs, TV, hulu, Netflix…you understand what I mean.
The Sunday before last I was sitting at home indulging in all that – enjoying using my free time to surf blogs and news at will. After a few hours, I felt totally saturated (not to mention worked up about all the hot button, divisive issues facing us today). I got up from my Mac Book and went to sit on the sunny front porch, needing to clear my head…how centering it was to just sit on the warm concrete for a while and let the busy silence of the green vitality before me soak slowly in. As the breeze softly rustled the trees and shifted through the dry grass, I felt the wind making space inside my brain and soul to let what I had read soak in, too.
We need moments of silence like this to process everything we go through in a day, everything the world throws at us. It is when we bring our attention to the present moment and become attentive to our hearts and souls that we can hear the Lord’s whisper within us, responding to all that we’ve just experienced.
This moment came back to me again last Sunday during Mass (and again in daily mass yesterday when we heard this reading again), as Christ spoke through the Gospel. Here’s a refresher on what He said (John 15:1-8):
Jesus said to his disciples: “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 every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. 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.
Those moments of silence are moments of “remaining.” That is what that word “remain” means to me– to stay, to be with the Lord, to remain present to Him in the moment. Remain in me. Remain in my presence, be aware of it. Let My word affect your life, and act from the love I have spoken to you.
Indeed, it is through these moments of being attentive to our inner life that we growin the self-awareness essential for the “pruning” Christ refers to. Christ cannot prune us if we don’t sit still and silent long enough to let Him!
How can we “keep his commandments” as John the Apostle said the Second Reading (1 John 3:18-24), the greatest of which is to love, if we are not aware of that quiet, guiding force of love within us, which is the Spirit? John could not have been more clear when he said:
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, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.
In this Easter time of mystery, let us actively seek to preserve moments of silence in our lives, to allow the Spirit in us to be heard, to be fostered, and to grow strong. There are so many ways to do this.
When we drive, we could leave the radio off sometimes. When we are talking to someone, we could listen with true attentiveness instead of giving into the pressure to multi-task. We could take a few moments of silence after we read books or the news to reflect on what the Lord wants to say to us through the words.
We could practice silent meditation each night to go over our day with the Lord and ask Him to show us where we fell short on love, where we were inattentive to the love He wanted to give us. There are so many ways to make these moments of remaining in Him a part of our daily routine.
As we grow in this ability to remain in Him, we will see more clearly where He wants to prune us. And once we see more clearly, and become more aware of our inner life and of the Lord’s presence, we are able to let go of and thus be freed from those limited and self-centered ways that inhibit His ability to work through us. Before the force of His love, the parts of us that are dead and infertile sluff off. And with the help of the Spirit we can understand how this process, though sometimes painful, can make us more fruitful in love.
But if we let ourselves be carried away by the current of our fast paced, information driven life style, constantly ingesting external stimuli without reflection, we will not grow in grace. For without the Lord, we can do nothing. And while He is always with us, we must yield to Him before change can occur.
In the next verses following the excerpt of the Gospel, just after Christ says He loves us as the Father loves Him, Christ tells us the end purpose of being pruned and made fruitful: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete (1 John 1: 11).”