God’s Vine and Us

It’s a “vineyard” weekend in the Catholic Church. It’s a striking image describing our connections and relationships with each other. Now, many of us don’t know that much about vineyards unless you live in River Hills.

Isaiah tells us to “sing” of a vineyard. I don’t know a vineyard song, but I know that music always unites people, unless it’s rap or a polka. Lest I digress. Creating the choicest of vines for the finest wines. But the vine needs to produce in a community of elements; hence a unison, otherwise it’s just silly wild grapes. Pruning or being hoed just won’t work. The vine ends up being thrown in the fire. Pretty sad stuff, don’t you think? The virus was supposed to unite us, as many other tragedies have done. So much for that vine. This parish keeps us connected to both God and each other, and I think we’re doing an excellent job, even though I’m still the new guy.

But hey, in thinking about this weekend, at least for me, I discovered a new word. It’s tendril. Tendril is a leaf that’s attached and supports that ever-climbing thing we call a vine. This new word provides life-giving energy, even sacrificial in giving its very life for the support of the entire vine. Tendril. A new term with an old meaning.

You all know the rule: I can’t sleep tonight until I put it in a sentence and make tendril my own.

We say that we’re social animals, yet how many of those times do we love to beat up everybody around us. “No one does things as well as I do,” we smugly say to ourselves. Try recalling your relationships or encounters this past week and consider how tendril you were. (Hey, I just made a noun a verb. But not a very good sentence. I’m still working on my one sentence.) We love judging and admonishing members of our family, even when sharing the same blood, but somehow that relative’s “tendril is not like mine,” we selfishly say to ourselves. Or, how about two strangers? Like that male receptionist or the young girl at the bank? What connections can be shared between two human beings, known or unknown?

All of St. Paul’s writings are about tendriling our way through life. He’s either writing angrily about divisions in this town against that other town, or he’s writing enduring poetic poetry about the union between the Trinity and us, and about keeping you and me an “us.”

“Whatever” is the beginning of Paul’s litany. It’s not said like a valley girl, “What ever” as though anything goes, but it is the faith-filled “whatever” to be relied upon in any of life’s situations. What words follow Paul’s “whatever?” How about “Honorable, just, pure, lovely.” I told the male receptionist that I liked his hair cut; it’s the look where it’s real short all around but full on top. His eyes beamed wide with his “thank you.” Paul’s final word after saying whatever is gracious. Frankly, the most vital blessing given to anyone.

Before we eat we say, “Let’s say grace.” We begin each Mass with the powerful “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I told the bank clerk whose counting out my withdrawal cash that I liked her nails, multicolored; must be important to her. Her smile back to me said it all.

This is “Respect Life Month,” the first Sunday in October. It’s a serious time to rethink our attitudes and renew our beliefs in the sanctity of life. Life, from the tiny hands we see on billboards to, hopefully, the wrinkled, well-worn hand we lovingly hold onto at her deathbed and offered up to God.

Tendril. Just try telling me the next time that guy’s fixing his hair and she’s scrambling to get her nails down before work that they are not thinking of my compliment, not me, but only my fleeting, five-second sincere comment.

As usual, Jesus has the final say today about vineyards. His is the Old Testament, and New Testament combined. Cancel cable and just read the Old Testament stuff with lots of mayhem and killing to satisfy any male twenty-year old’s appetite inside of us. New Testament stuff is that the kingdom of God will continue to grow, with or without you. But along with you because of God’s grace and our willingness to say ‘yes.” Because God’s kingdom is not of our making or water to the vine. Ours is an honorable, just, pure, lovely, and a gracious participation. Why? We are tendril continuing to grow the Divine vine.

Sorry folks, but I can’t use tendril in a decent sentence. I think it’s because it’s not only a noun but can become an adjective, verb, and even an adverb. That word becomes our living vocabulary due to the threesome we call the Trinity and the other three’s expressed daily in our lives: in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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