High Altitude and Homing Devices – Reflection by Sr. Susie O’Rawe OP
I’ve been thinking about vines and wine production a lot this week hoping to find connections to this Sunday’s gospel reading: John 15:1-8.
As a Dominican Sister I am currently living and working with one of our missions in Tarija, Bolivia. This happens to be a famous wine region in Bolivia with grapes being grown at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Apparently the high elevation helps the juice age faster. They say that in two years a bottle of wine from here is the same age as one of six years grown from a vineyard at a lower altitude.
This got me thinking about faith, specifically my own faith. Living in high altitude region I mused wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could equally fast track my levels of inner enlightenment and faith to a ‘higher’ level in a matter of months instead of years. Perhaps not, as I suppose would miss out on all the life experiences, challenges and joys that help me mature and grow towards perfection in my life. It is hard going sometimes but in the end there is always a promise of happiness ahead.
Going back to the vineyard theme, it seems there is a lot of work involved to keep these vines in pristine condition. The people who do this job are called Vinedressers (usually agriculturalists) and they work all year round trimming and pruning in exactly the right places to ensure the best yield of grapes. Their involvement in the daily pruning and cultivation of grapevines is a crucial part of grape growing. They remove dead or diseased grapes to make room for new growth, ultimately leading to a more productive vine. Interestingly, this process begins very shortly after planting, within a few weeks.
So what I see in this gospel is God as the Vinedresser saying, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in them will bear much fruit.” I suppose it is only God who really knows the exact places we need pruning in order to get the best spiritual yield. Then those bits of our vine that have no fruit are gently lifted up to higher branches so that they can bask in God’s spiritual light in order to grow.
This is a God of encouragement. We all have an internal spiritual ‘homing device’ that is planted deep inside of us from our first existence as a tiny cell in our mother’s womb. It is this that constantly gives us the drive to search and look both inside and outside ourselves for life meaning and our purpose within it all. Despite days of disappointment and frustration I find that these are nearly always countered with days that go really well.
The writer Robert Louis Stevenson once watched a town lamplighter coming along the street. It was pitch dark. As the lamplighter lit the street lights in succession, he was quite overwhelmed. He wrote in his journal about the lamplighter who went along “punching holes in the darkness.” Sometimes we need to punch holes in our darkness by a bit of pruning and facing the sunlight through reflection and prayer. As Christians we can be imbued with love and compassion simply through our prayer and reflection. I like to think of this gospel as one of connections as we coil and snake our way along the branches of God’s unconditional love.
This week try and look inside yourself and make contact with your inner self. Look around you and watch out for those people that suddenly come in to your life and lift you up to a better place. Give thanks for the chances we get every single day to renew our faith and our willingness to be better than we were yesterday. We know God is closer to us than we are to ourselves when Jesus says “Remain in me as I remain in you.” You are called to become a perfect creation. No one is called to be who you are called to be. No one else but you.
Sr Susie O’Rawe O.P