I’m not much of gardener, I like plants to look nice, I like it when spring comes and the flowers are in bloom. But I don’t have the patience to work with plants the rest of the year.
And I don’t know what plants need to make them grow well.
There is one thing I do know, however, and that is that a good gardener PRUNES his bushes –he cuts away the wood. I don’t know WHEN to prune, I had to check that in Google for my sermon preparation: apparently most things get pruned in late winter, some things like climbing roses get pruned in Autumn, and some things like Raspberries in very early spring –I didn’t know that.
Fortunately, there are gardeners who do what they are doing.
And, in our Gospel today, Jesus tells us that THE Gardener is the Lord Himself, and He knows what to cut and when to cut it.
Pruning is rather violent image to associate with God, and image that suggests that He directs not only the easy things in life, like the flowers coming up, but also the tough things in life, the blows in life that we never enjoying receiving.
We can never full grasp the ways of the Lord, but the image of the Gardener can help:
Why does a gardener prune? Because he hates his plants and wants to cut them up?
No, because he loves and cares for them, and wants them to become something better than they presently are.
Because he knows what is good for them
The Divine Creator, Scripture tells us, did not create suffering. Scripture gives us the image of the Garden of Eden, but it tells us a truth that is not just a symbol:
Suffering only entered this world with sin, and radically disrupted the harmony of this world so that we can barely imagine what life was like without suffering.
But even though He didn’t create it, He now directs it, to bring all things to the good, to the Good which is He Himself.
Now, this is something to recall in every difficulty.
Because we never WANT to be pruned. I want this dead wood in my life; and I certainly don’t want the pain that comes with it being cut away.
I know that there are many pointless things I am attached to, that aren’t good for me;
And I know that there are many GOOD things I’m attached to, but attached to in a selfish way that is bad for me and bad for the people I’m attached to;
So, I know I need to be pruned, but I don’t enjoy the pruning.
But I do need it. And because the Lord, the Divine Gardener knows it, He prunes me.
Before concluding, let me point out why we have this Gospel today, in Eastertide. Easter if the time of new growth, of Resurrection; of the resurrection that could only happen because of the Death that preceded it.
And the new growth that I need in my life can only come by the thousand little deaths that pruning involves.
So, when we feel one of those thousand little deaths, let us not only remember that the Lord is with us our suffering, let us remember too what He taught us in this passage: He is the Gardener, He knows what He is about, and every bit of pruning can be for our good, CAN be if we allow it to draw us to Him:
“a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself... cut off from me you can do nothing”
But “Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty”.