BRIDGEPORT— The image of pruning a vine is key to understanding our essential lifetime task as disciples of Christ, Bishop Caggiano said during his online Mass on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Reflecting on the parable of the vineyard owner and ungrateful tenants from the Gospel of Matthew (21:33-43) the bishop said that the same God who plants us in his soil and nourishes us also requires that we undergo pruning “in order to bear lasting fruit.”
The bishop cautioned that while most of us understand the need to remove sin from our lives, we are often unaware of the need for another deeper level of pruning that “goes to the core and is more difficult to endure.”
“We must prune away opinions, ego, agendas—things we may make out to be good but that also make the vineyard wild and won’t produce fruit as we are designed to do in Christ.”
“Dying to ourselves so that Christ can live in us and shine through us to the world is a lifetime project of grace and spirit that requires fortitude and perseverance from you and me,” he said.
This radical pruning is possible because Lord give us his teachings and even his forgiveness if we ask, the bishop said.
He began his homily by noting that Fall was his favorite season as a boy, not simply because of the beautiful foliage but also because it was a time of family ritual.
At home in Brooklyn, he and his mother prepared and filled 250 bottles of tomato sauce, while his father made wine for the coming year and pruned the grapevines in late October.
However, the image that really stayed with him was the backyard vineyard of a boyhood friend and how radically the boy’s father pruned the vines.
The bishop said he was struck by the seasonal ritual and “the excessive, even savage pruning” that left only the stem and a few branches.
“All the rest was cut away leaving a boy to wonder if he went too far, if the vine was dead.”
Noting that Sunday was also the Feast of his patron, St. Francis of Assisi, Bishop Caggiano said that St. Francis joyfully underwent radical pruning in order to find more fulness in the life of Christ.
Describing St. Francis as the man “ who perhaps next to Paul had the greatest impact on the life of the Church since the Ascension of our Lord into heaven,” the bishop said Francis was born into a life of pleasure and privilege as the son of a wealthy merchant.
“Yet he renounced all he had and allowed himself to be pruned of everything, even his clothing so that he could stand naked before the Lord.”
The spiritual journey of St. Francis has captured the imagination of religious people across the world and he has become a symbol of one who was “voluntarily and joyfully pruned by the Lord,” he said.
“While it may seem that Francis had nothing left, the truth is he had everything,” the bishop said. “What was left was not a shell but a shining example. Francis’s ego had given way to Christ who is master of all things, even death itself.”
The bishop said we all struggle at times and think that we can’t give everything up, but it will come back to us one hundred fold because we will become the vineyard that bears fruit.
“The spiritual challenge for you and me is to place ourselves at the feet of the Master who has come to prune us and give us life.”
At the end of Mass Bishop Caggiano invited all people throughout the diocese to join in the Sunday Family Rosary at 7:30 pm. He said the Rosary “is designed to gather families together, strengthen their faith, and offer their intentions together throughout our diocese and beyond.”
For more information on the Sunday Family Rosary, visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/