Continuing the Spiritual Journey

By: E. Jane Rutter

The winds have been strong this spring, breaking off the withered branches from our walnut and sycamore trees and scattering them throughout the yard. Gathering them is a fun chore for our grandchildren. They throw them into the firepit for kindling, and, when the fire is burning exactly right, they put marshmallows on the end of a stick to roast and then eat, licking the sticky sugar off their fingertips. A heavenly treat that brings the little ones much joy!

Our Gospel on the vine and the branches this 5th Sunday of Easter is perfect for teaching kids and adults (!) while sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows. Jesus reminds His disciples they will bear abundant fruit if they remain attached to Him as branches to a vine, otherwise, withered “…people will gather them and throw them into a fire, and they will be burned” (Jn 15:6).

Love is the God source that flows through the branches attached to the vine. As his branches/disciples “Love one another” is the command Jesus gives us (John 15:17). Doing so we remain in His love and “…my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

Often, it seems to me, we focus on the suffering Jesus, living in Lent for too long. But the Jesus who came to serve us is joyful, otherwise, what would attract us to Him or His message? We are not born for suffering but for joy.

We can itemize and debate the merits of suffering and can certainly point to the lives of saints who suffered terribly. Take note, suffering is not a fruit of the Spirit; rather, as “…tribulations of our ‘before Easter’ broken world” (St. Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 128).

Take heart! For at the same time, St. Augustine also calls us to celebrate “’…after Easter,’ the bliss in which we shall hereafter be” (Ibid).

As Saint Pope John II affirms, ‘We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!’

And, throughout, the Scriptures invite us to walk the path of joy. Examples to study include

*“Shout for joy, daughter Zion! sing joyfully, Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, daughter Jerusalem!” (Zeph 3:17)

*“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad” (Ps 118:24).

*“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness…” (Gal 5:22-23).

*“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).

*“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13).

Tonight, as we sit around our campfires, we celebrate Jesus among us. We gather as loving families, laughing and enjoying God’s evening stars, the warmth of the fire and the sweet taste of roasted marshmallows.

And so I pray: Dear Lord, fill us with the joy of Your love. Send us Your Holy Spirit to radiate in all whom we meet, touching their lives with the fruits of the Spirit. Let our lives glorify You as strong branches of the Vine.