Friday, May 15, 2009

Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 15: 1-8
I used to run on medley relay teams in high school. There was a sprint medley of four runners in a relay. One would run 400 meters. Two would run 200 meters, and finally the last fellow would run 800 meters. The 200-meter fellows were sprinters. They worked on their speed. They did not run cross-country or do distance workouts. They had no endurance for that. The 800-meter runner had endurance. He did not work on his speed. He ran long distance workouts. Each member of the relay worked on his strengths. If the 800 fellows tried to do the 200 and the 200 fellows tried to do the 800, the team would come to a disastrous result.

I think that God works on our strengths. Our strengths are the branches attached to the vine that bear fruit. God prunes that vine. God tries to make a strength become even stronger. God ignores the weaknesses. God just puts them aside. When God chose Paul to be a Christian preacher to the Gentiles, God ignored a weakness in Paul. Paul liked to kill Christians or at least imprison them. That is a big weakness! God saw that Paul had a strength to be very singularly focused in a work. God pruned Paul to make a preacher of him. The original Apostles focused more on Paul’s weakness and kept him at a distance at first. God is not like that.

So what does God do about those weaknesses? In the gospel, God throws the weakness out. It withers, but now it becomes a strength for someone else! A withered branch becomes firewood to give warmth, light, and allow cooking of food. Nothing of us is useless. We are not junk.

When do we focus on our weaknesses? In our private prayer and interior journey we look at our bad habits, and shortcomings. This can lead us to the humility that prays, “Lord, without you, I cannot get over this.” When someone else focuses on your weaknesses they are not following Jesus. He chose those fishermen and tax collector and pruned them. He did not condemn them. In our mass, each of us says, “Lord, I am not worthy” just before each of us receives Holy Communion. Each of us says it about ourselves. It is an “I” statement. I do not say, “Lord, these others are not worthy,” nor do I say, “ We are not unworthy.” It is not my place to say anyone else is unworthy. I am not God. I sit on no judgment seat.

To follow Jesus, we need to help others to find their strengths instead of always focusing on their weaknesses. Besides, what you consider a weakness might be a strength in some other situation. We are each unique, but we are all made in the image of God.

(Note: Photo © by Husac Lucian @ )

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