The governmental road map to the end of the ‘Covid’ restrictions seems to be fairly accurate, and as long as the population at large continues to restrain its euphoria about regaining its freedoms, some semblance of pre-covid life will emerge from its straight-jacket, stretch its limbs and brace itself in readiness for the future. Happily, and joyfully for those who have hair, the hairdressing salons are shearing the locks of the population with dexterous energy putting a ‘spring in the steps of those’ newly coiffured. The rush to window-shop, to promenade in shopping malls, rather than browse through ‘on-line’ outlets, gives some the opportunity to get a little fresh air; and to see high streets show signs of life gives the impression that at last, some sense of normality is slowly gaining a foothold in the land.
Today’s reading from John’s gospel doesn’t mention hairdressers, and I can’t imagine St Paul advocating them either, particularly as he encouraged women to be modest in every aspect of dress and life in general; but John’s gospel records Jesus mentioning his Father as a vinedresser. I know nothing about vineyards other than they produce a crop that when liquified is rather good to the taste! Jesus is saying that you and I are the crop of the vine, and the Father ensures that we are well cared for, because Jesus the vine, carries the goodness that comes from his Father to feed us all. That goodness is the love of God for all people.
One single vine has many branches and produces scores of bunches of grapes, and although I know nothing about nurturing vines, I have seen how one single vine can produce a very large crop.
As hair needs cutting, as vines need a vinedresser, the people of God need nurturing. How are the people of God nurtured? By listening or reading the ‘Word’ of God. If hair isn’t trimmed it becomes a mess. If a vineyard isn’t tended it is swallowed by weeds, or brambles, or succumbs to disease, if the soul isn’t nurtured, it loses its spiritual energy and spiritual effectiveness. How does God the Father feed us to keep us spiritually healthy? By making freely available the spiritual food His Son prepared for us!
The key is in our faith community. The food is the Word of God, the food is the reception of the sacraments, the food is in sharing our hopes and fears our joys and pains! We have to want to belong to our community, to desire to support one another in life and in death. If the desire to want to belong is missing then the end product is dead branches! Currently, many people are seeking spiritual nourishment by viewing the celebration of mass on-line. For those who are house-bound or who are unable to attend the sacraments that’s fine, and the sacraments can be taken to them, but how many think that belonging to a community is valid simply by watching the telly? Alcoholics Anonymous meet regularly because they receive support and encouragement from each other. A phone call or a meeting on Zoom is better than nothing, but it is not a substitute for the real thing!
Our spiritual vine encapsulates and therefore affects every aspect of life. Friendships, spouses, working practises, leisure activities, name it! ….. because whatever ‘it’ is, it is a measure on who we are, what matters to us, who matters to us and how we demonstrate that in every day life. Very slowly parish communities are numerically increasing: but will they return to pre-covid levels? Who knows, but if the People of God decide to demonstrate their love of God and their love for their neighbour by re-engaging with a parish community, the community they join will become a vibrant community.
May our vine grow spiritually, and may it become a community that reaches out to those who need our support and love.