Do you ever feel frustrated? Do you ever find yourself thinking or saying, “If only I could do this, or had that, or didn’t have to be burdened with thus and such?” If you haven’t had experiences like that, you are in the very small minority, because most of us from time to time feel frustrated and hampered by either the presence of some problem in our lives or the absence of some advantage. In today’s gospel, Our Lord tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. He goes on to say that our heavenly Father is the vinedresser who prunes the vine to make it bear more fruit. Now, from the viewpoint of the vine, pruning is a form of frustration. The natural tendency of the plant is to put forth more tendrils, more branches, more leaves. But the human vine-grower is not interested in tendrils, branches, and leaves. He wants grapes! Thus, the need to prune. And so with us and God. Our tendency is toward self-expression, pleasure, the ability to manipulate our world to our own liking. But that is not God’s desire, because if every human being were allowed to follow his and her own tendency, there would be constant conflict in the world—more so than there already is. So, God prunes us, and we don’t always like it.
I think of the late Pope, John Paul II. When he was elected to the Chair of Saint Peter in 1978, he was vibrant, healthy man of 58. By the time of his death at the age of 84, he was a terribly debilitated man—having suffered the ravages of disease for years, having been shot and nearly killed by a would-be assassin, and having fallen and broken bones several times because of the Parkinson’s disease which slowly invaded his entire body and deprived him of more and more of his natural ability. During the recent visit of Pope Benedict to our country, some film clips were shown on television taken during the last days of Pope John Paul II. He came to his window to address the crowd in the square below, and was not able to utter a sound. His voice totally failed him. Can you imagine the frustration—knowing how much there was to be done, and eager to do it, and yet unable to perform his tasks as he saw them because of the totally worn-out condition of his body?
When we find ourselves fretting and complaining because we can’t do as we would like, or must carry a cross which we would like to get rid of, let us be aware that God is pruning us and let us offer to him “the pruning,” by which he imposes his holy will upon us and thus accomplishes his purposes far better than we could achieve them. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: Father Brown composed this message some years ago.