Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. (John 15:2-3)
Our modern distance from the agrarian world in which Jesus walked and taught and found the subject matter for his parables can sometimes leave us lacking for understanding. The best example perhaps is the familiar depiction of the lovely lady in a snow-white gown, ostensibly the Blessed Mother, holding in her arms a snow-white lamb, ostensibly the Lamb of God. Anyone who has even encountered a lamb or any other baby animal would know that no garment that held it would remain snow white for long!
But we are not so far removed from all that imagery, because this week we have some pruned some branches. In order to prepare for work that will be done to the church next month, we had to make way for the scaffolding along the exterior walls. My first thought was simply to cut back the holly trees that grew there, and in fact that is what we did to the two that grow by the entrance to the Saint Joseph transept.
But the hollies along the west side of the church are different; they are Nellie Stevens hollies that have grown in both root and branch to the point of being an obstacle to pedestrians and even a threat to the integrity of the building. We have cut them back several times, but as the Lord reminds us, that only makes them grow back bigger, and faster. This week we cut them down, leaving that side of the church quite bare. New plantings will be placed alongside the church this fall once the scaffolding has been removed. But in the meantime, we have a chance to admire how large and very well-built our handsome church truly is. Perhaps that will motivate even more folks to participate in the Capital Campaign to bring it “up to snuff” for the next sixty years.
This also brought our attention to the holly trees on either side of the old entrance to the school. These were Nellie Stevens as well, and to give you a clue as to how they grow, when they were planted there were six of them, three on either side. Over the years, first one pair, then another was removed until only one stood on either side. Each of those kept growing and taking over the sidewalk and the front of the building. Each time we pruned them – an expensive proposition on trees that size – they simply came back bigger and faster. So, it was time for them to go.
|This one photo shows before and after the holly tree removal in front of the school,|
though "before" is on the right, and "after" is on the left.
Now they are both gone; new plants to arrive soon.
Now we can see the entire façade of our handsome original school building, and its cornerstone: A.D. 1946! I think it is the best-looking school building in the Archdiocese, at least among those still being used as schools. In short order, new plantings will go in that will enhance it, not shroud it.
Jesus elsewhere mentions a tree that does not bear fruit, and must be cut down. When this happens in the gardens most familiar to us, it comes as a shock to our system. It reminds us that these plants have a purpose they must fulfill or cease to enjoy their privileged position.
So too must we do the necessary pruning in our lives, trimming off any growth that is not fruitful; that is, cutting away sinful inclinations that grow up in us, however “natural” they may seem. This is an understanding we dare not avoid even if our lives be anything but agrarian.