I have a controversial statement to start with. Christians don’t have to drink wine.
In fact, a few weeks ago I went to a pub with a priest for lunch, and he told me he was teetotal, never drank alcohol.
However it is a fact that wine, the fruit of the vine, is one of the great symbols of the Christian life. Why? Because wine, when used properly, is a source of delight and joy.
A question for each of us. What genuinely gives me joy and contentment, delight and peace?
Each person will have their own individual answer to that question. It may well include the love of your spouse and your family. We might be lucky enough to have a job that gives us joy in serving others and making the world a better place. Our personal joy and delight may include the pleasures of music, reading, or of physical exercise, either as a spectator or a participant. It may even include a few glasses of good wine!
As Christians we know that God wants us to have a life of joy and delight. We Christians are called to share in divine life, in joy. Think of the gospel, vine and branches. Vine and branches are the one organism, sharing life. We are not a vine in the next row to Jesus, no. No, we are the branches of that very vine. Not adjacent vines, not cuttings from that vine, but one vine.
We can produce good fruits , good wine, because we are united to the Son and heir of God the Father, Jesus himself. We can bud and grow because we remain in Jesus as part of the vine.
This all sounds very ideal and beautiful. But the reality is that even being fruitful and virtuous and being part of the vine does not spare us pain. Vines need to get pruned if they are to grow abundantly. Life will do this to us. Pruning well produces plentiful fruit. No pruning means little in the way of fruit. Being pruned is not usually pleasant. All of us have suffered setbacks, pains and disappointments. There may have been times when our best hopes and dreams all of which seemed so good and virtuous, have been dashed. I work in hospitals, and most days there people ask questions about pain and suffering . Why is this happening to me, or to this person who I love?
We may well need faith and patience. Faith that God is faithful to us, patience that God’s love will become clear to us even in difficult times. This needs faith, and at times we need to be willing to live with the cross. We know Jesus rose from the dead, and that he calls us to live life to the full, but we also know he went though the cross.
The fact is that all of us are always in the need of further pruning if we are to share fully in the life of Christ. We will need to remain part of the vine and allow that pruning to take place if we are to produce good fruit, good wine. In the process we will have to die to what prevents the life of Jesus flowing freely through us. This is where we can be helped by an old fashioned examination of conscience.
How may our actions have hurt others?
How could we better show love and charity to those we live or work with?
How could we live for others and for ourselves?
How can I make Jesus more present in the world?
He is the vine, we are branches that share his life.
One of my jobs as the deacon at Mass is to pour wine, and a little water, into the chalice at the offertory. The words I say while doing that are ‘By the mystery of the water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity’
As we receive holy communion, the body and blood of Christ, we are strengthened and supported to become more and more divine, more and more the body of Christ, part of the one vine.
So also the pruning we go through, the trials of life, are worthwhile because they help us to make real divine life, the life of Christ in us, to share in the joy and delight of the Creator, in the love that is God, the delight that we can see in the world.
2nd May 2021
Dcn Jim Curtain