Acts 8:26-40 • Ps. 22:24-30
1 John 4:7-21 • John 15:1-8
The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise my love, my fair one, and come away. The garden is a garden of delight and an irresistible invitation. Love. Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is a farmer.” The farmer shows his cutting care, discarding the fruitless branch for the fire and pruning where the fruit grows. Thus his care is loving and life-giving.
We are the branches of the one true vine. Remaining in the vine, we are said to remain in his Word. We listen to the Word. The Word is our narrative, for we live in him and he lives in us. We ask and get. We ask for the Word and find we already have it, for the Word is not far from us. We request nourishment, and it is already coursing through the vine en route to our need. Living in the vine is living in love. The cutting of the farmer is love’s wound.
Let us imagine thinking and speaking branches, branches that notice their collective life depends upon the vine. One branch does not say to another, “I have no need of you.” The health of the part contributes to the health of the whole. So our loving garden is a festival of love, a shared celebration in which the refrain is “Let us love one another.”
But we are not happy branches. We are, on average, miserable human beings, good some of the time, contorted all of the time. What about love? Start with persons and you will see it: shared sacrifice and mutual affection, fidelity and joy. Start with persons and love will fail: betrayal and lies, secrets and weakness, ten thousand apologies. Love limps; it’s the best we can do.
There is another love, more faithful than we are, prevenient and perfect, creative and directing, working for our final good. God is love. God is the pouring forth of love, inexhaustible giving, never diminished or depleted.
God’s love has appeared. Where? Where is this love? “God has sent his only begotten Son into the world” (1 John 4:9). Why? “That we might live through him.” The loving life of the Son flows through his fingers and eyes, transmits through the threads of his clothes, is a sacramental mystery ticking through time. His coursing life is love and liberation, for his love is a “propitiation for our sins,” a cleansing as real as it is mysterious.
Do you love God? Let me help. Try a bit less. Relax your praying hands, unfurl your determined brow, let your heart be as it is. Our love story begins not with us loving God. (1 John 4:10). It begins with God loving us. The gift of God’s love is neither momentary nor finite. It comes as an incessant and endless giving. It pours. Therefore we have a divine resource with which “to love one another.” God remains in us and flows from us.
Love listens. A person filled with divine love is love’s obedient lover. Hearing the words “Arise my fair one, and come away,” the beloved moves. Thus, in the story from the Acts of the Apostles, Philip, prompted by love’s angel, arises and goes to Gaza. He hears an Ethiopian reciting holy words. Love says, “Go and join the chariot; take Jesus to the text; baptize and make new.” Having worked the work of love, Philip disappears. Move when love moves; disappear when love says stop.
Look It Up
Read John 15:1-5. Pray for pruning and expect pain.
Think About It
Before time, caritas.