A Man Cutting A Branch Of a Plant With A Cutter

Nothing Worth Anything is Easy

Whether it is going to the fitness center for a good workout, or studying for the bar exam, we can all agree that hard work is part of success. We often don’t value what is easy. There is no sense of accomplishment when something comes too easy for us. So, why do we think our salvation should be easy?

Before you begin to quote ‘salvation is a gift’ or ‘we are saved by grace’ as if we have no part in our salvation, take a moment, and read today’s Gospel lesson. Imagine the vine. The vine is not left alone to grow as it wishes. The vine is not free to send out branches in any direction.

The Lord said to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.”

John 14:27-15:7

When vines are left unattended and unpruned, energy is spent sending out branches rather than producing fruit. In fact, all plants that produce fruit use energy either growing leaves and branches or growing fruit. A good vinedresser knows which branches are good for producing fruit and prunes the others away. This allows the vine to put energy toward fruit.

We are the same way. If our lives are left unattended and unpruned, we tend to set out in directions that do not lead us toward heaven. The next thing we realize is that we have wasted time playing rather than praying. We have no fruit to show.

In the Church we manage our soul with ‘ascetism’ and ‘spiritual disciplines’.  You know them as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the sacramental life of the Church. Each of these disciplines prunes the wild branches away and nurtures the good branches of our souls. We are fed with the grace of God and begin to produce fruit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5.22-23

The Church has a rich history of producing these fruits in the lives of the saints we read about each day. Many of these saints were pruned by martyrdom for Christ. They each acquired salvation, not sitting around, by struggling for God. The saints realized the value of producing fruit and were willing to be pruned.

The saints were not always pruned through physical torture. Not all saints were martyrs, but all saints struggled in their faith. Not all saints produced the same fruits, and not all were pruned the same. One thing is certain. All the saints realized that nothing worth anything was easy, and this especially true about salvation.

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