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We are not the vine

First slide

Sometimes, especially as parents in times of trial, we can feel very much alone. We can feel as if the world — or at least our children’s small worlds — depends entirely upon us. We feel as if we are the vine and they are the branches and their very lifeblood runs through us and only through us. Of course, this isn’t true at all.

As we approach Pentecost, the daily Mass readings speak truth into the frazzled, overstretched minds of mothers everywhere. You’re not the vine. You’re a branch and so are your kids. Your Father, the creator of the entire universe,  and your Savior is the vine. It is from him that you draw strength and grace, from him that you gain sustenance. Wait, there’s more.

He’s the vine for your children, too. The greatest thing you can do for them is to teach them where to draw strength. Parents can be the very best providers and encouragers for our children, but we can’t be their whole world. We can’t ever be everything they need. Because they — like us — need God. They need to see how the branches abide in the vine and the vine feeds them.

Children grow up. They strike out on their own. They still touch base. If the relationship is a good one, they’ll always seek counsel and wisdom from their parents. But we do them a grave injustice if we don’t point to a truer source of strength and grace and joy. Further, we take on far more burden than we can bear if we behave as if we are the vine, the source of their strength.

At first, it seems like a good idea. If we can just control enough, contrive enough, we can guarantee their success and their happiness. Maybe even if we can abide closely enough in the Lord, we can be sure our children will, also, grafting them to us as we graft ourselves to him. But that’s not how this works.

Instead, as our children head out into the world, we take comfort in the words of Jesus, who left his disciples — and us — with far better than a human parent.

"But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7).

This promise is one that gets even better as we drill down on translations. An advocate will come to you (New American Bible). A counselor will come to you (Revised Standard Version). A friend (The Message). A helper (New International Version).

Rooted in the vine who is Jesus, we are given the Holy Spirit. He advocates for us. He counsels us with wisdom. He is a friend even when no other friends are around. And he is our greatest source of strength and help. The Holy Spirit infuses us with grace so that we can live here on earth in communion with God in heaven.

That means that we don’t parent alone. We don’t have to provide for our children what good parents do without the help of Our Lord. It also means that when we are gone or when our children are far from us, or even when we’re all trying to live together peacefully, the Holy Spirit can do the heavy lifting. He is here and he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.

Take a deep breath; you don’t parent alone, not even close. Abide in the true vine and listen to the counsel of the Holy Spirit. God’s got this. 

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Connecticut.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

@elizabethfoss