Archive for the ‘Gospel’ Tag


A few weeks ago, I had the joy of escaping my chilly New England home to visit my parents in bright, warm Florida. I’ve lived away from home now for quite some time, and each time I go back to visit I love to wait for the moment when we turn a corner and my house comes into view.   My favorite tree is right on the corner of the lot; my family planted it when we moved into this house many years ago.  I love this house for everything that it represents and all of the memories that it holds.

But this past visit when we pulled up to the house I did not get to relish that moment that I love. I had just heard a few minutes earlier that there had been two explosions at the Boston Marathon.  My body was there in Florida, but my heart was back in Boston, worried about my family and friends there.

Later that evening when I went out for a walk with my Mom, I noticed that my favorite tree had been completely cut down. At least, that’s what it looked like from my vantage point.  I expressed my shock and sadness to my Mom, who just laughed and exclaimed, “Oh, that’s Knuckles!” She went on to explain that she was gardening over the weekend and decided that the tree needed to be pruned.

The tree post-pruning!

The tree post-pruning!


Pruned, yes, I argued. But not completely cut down. Every single one of the tree’s branches was gone. It looked like the Giving Tree at the end of Shel Silverstein’s iconic book.  It was tragic. I couldn’t believe that she had nearly killed this tree.

And my mother—in her infinite wisdom—patiently explained that yes, the tree looked dead.  But it needed to be pruned so that later it would grow even taller, even fuller. Sure, it was ugly. By all outward appearances, it was never coming back. But new life was just waiting to burst forth.  Sure enough, right before I left home a few days later, Mom pointed out the brand new little branches that were springing forth.

These were the memories that were in my heart this morning as I heard today’s Gospel.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.

Remain in me, as I remain in you.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.”

I suppose, then, that perhaps I should look at challenges, suffering, and pain as a kind of spiritual “pruning.”  Perhaps God is a Master Gardener, up there in the clouds with a giant pair of shears just waiting to cut away anything that hinders his plan for me, for you. It hurts. It’s ugly. By all appearances it doesn’t seem like anything is going to change, or improve. But then when we least expect it, life and beauty spring forth in great abundance.

Prune away.


Bob Rice

Catholic speaker, musician, author, teacher

domestic diva, M.D.

my mother raised the perfect housewife...then I went to med school

Faithfully Flawed

The Spiritual Evolution of a Faulty Catholic

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Helping the whole family grow in intimacy with Christ

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