Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. Our unity is only found in him. It it a unity and oneness that can never be rescinded or destroyed.
I gotta stop here. I can’t go on.
Do you really believe this stuff? All this vine and unity stuff that we’re supposed to believe?
We may feel it while sitting inside church’s safe walls and enjoying the music and Mass but just wait until the proverbial parking lot scenario and somebody cuts you off. Then we’ll see who prunes whom!
My simple 20 minute drive to work on a Milwaukee city street has three – count them – three near misses both coming from and going home. People will risk their lives for an additional car length in front of me. I have vowed to myself that I will not die on that stupid city street. (“Fr. Joe died today when I driver cut him off to gain a car length at 50 miles an hour in a 35 mile an hour zone. Details and film at 10.”)
We just can’t seem to get along. We can’t seem to find one path to walk together. Tragedy is probably the best time when I’ve witnessed people dropping whatever stands in our paths to find one way. But, sadly, it does not endure. September 11 was a few months of harmony until our divisions were once again lifted high and have remained there.
I was trying to think of one image that we could hook into to illustrate a unity of some kind. I’ve mentioned “path” but that’s kind of vague. Jesus uses “vine and branches” but I couldn’t tell a vine from a bush so don’t trust me with that image.
The image that we all have in common is this one, the family kitchen table. It is the one place in the house where people comfortably gather because we are both hungry and it is the one gathering place in the house. Here you could argue with each other while you’re still passing the gravy. Here you could see each other face to face and attempt to be civil, cordial, cooperative. (Three “C’s” we’re in need of these days.)
I can still picture our Manitowoc, Wisconsin family kitchen table vividly. It was folded back against the wall when not in use. It usually collected five people for a typical meal but could be easily be extended to 12. Parents often served as referees, as best they could. We each had opportunities to posture ourselves or sit and eat quietly.
What happens in family conversations is a slow “pruning” as Jesus would call it. The hurts of a child could be softened, the bad grade could be redeemed the next time around and a sibling’s upcoming event could be anticipated together. Our family was reminded through the exchange of food what unity and oneness could look like. Just like our present society, it did not always work but the image of what it could be was staring at us each time we entered the kitchen. That family kitchen table.
If kitchen table doesn’t work for you then find your own image, a visible image that clings to your heart, respects your beliefs but also the beliefs of those who disagree with you.
If the communion host that we receive means anything, the “body of Christ,” then it means for us to have a constant and vigilant awareness of what can bring us together whether in religion or politics.
What we need to cherish our beliefs and also what needs to be pruned in order to be a community of people or even a community of faith.