Jesus said to his disciples: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Today, I was invited by a 4th grade teacher to their “show and tell.” I brought with me a chalice and talked about it. I could tell they were excited to see a chalice close up and personal. But I wanted to explain to them what makes something sacred. I asked them if they knew the difference between a sacred and profane object. They didn’t. So I held up the chalice and told them that this chalice is sacred because it will only used for a sacred purpose: to contain the blood of Jesus Christ. It will never be used for anything else; for example, to hold coffee or milk or skittles.
They got it. But then I wanted to make sure they really understood the difference, so I asked them if a pair of black shoes could be sacred. They looked puzzled. I told them, “It depends…it depends on what these pair of shoes are used for. Are they used only for the Mass or for everyday?” Now, they understood.
“What about us? Are we sacred?”
“We are all sacred.” I said, “All of us are sacred, even those who do not know it.” But we can easily end up letting others profane us.” So many people in this world would love to just use us, sell us and even exploit us. No one owns your life, not even you! Only the Lord owns life, and He will never degrade (profane) it. Life is not "common" or "secular". It is sacred and unique. The Lord elevates (sanctifies) life. All we have to do is allow Him to prune us once in a while.
Now with kids, you always have to be ready for the conversation to go from one subject to another. When I asked if anyone had any questions, one child raised his hand and asked: “If someone commits suicide, do they go to hell?”
I’m still shocked to hear 4th graders talking about these things, but I’m no longer surprised by it.
“Only God knows who goes to hell, we don't.” I said, “We don’t even know if Judas went to hell! God knows us better than anyone and even better than ourselves. He knows our hearts and minds. But we can definitely say that betrayal and suicide are grave acts.”
Another child chimed in: “My father has a friend who committed suicide because he had a sickness in his brain.” “You see!” I said, “There are many reasons why people do what they do. God truly knows why. But we can still say that suicide is always a grave act that should be avoided at all cost, just like murder is always a grave act that should be avoided at all cost. Now there may be a lot of reasons why people kill others (because they are sick in the head, because they hate others, etc.), but we can all say that murder is always a grave act.
The kids understood and I was pleased. It pains me when these questions are asked by adults, especially Catholic adults!
But then one child asked me a brilliant question: “If God already knows what we are going to do? Why would he let people go to Hell?” Wow! What a great question! Now it’s not a great question because it was never asked before (in fact, it was asked - and answered – long ago), but because he was the first in his class to ask it. I was impressed!
“Knowing someone doesn’t mean controlling someone. I know that all of you will leave this class when the bell rings. It doesn’t mean I did it for you. I know all of you will go home; it doesn’t mean I pushed you. God knows us, He knows everything about us, but He doesn’t control us. Instead, He made us to love and be loved, and love cannot be controlled, it can only be pruned.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. To be pruned by the Lord means to accept the word that was spoken to us. It means to follow the Lord in all things. It means we have been taken from the wild and domesticated. It means we are no longer allowed to act like everyone else. We cannot seek revenge; we cannot resort to lies to gain the upper hand; we cannot fight fire with fire. We can’t even hate or disrespect or make fun of our “enemies”! We have been pruned. We are not some “wild thing.”
I can honestly say that if we do not choose the Lord, then we will choose someone or something else, and we will eventually be owned by it and slaves to it. We will end up withering away like so many before us who wither away when they choose to live like a “wild thing”. Commandments are not restrictions; they are prescriptions for good health.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Once pruned, a “wild thing” will produce great fruit. We will not be controlled by the Lord; we will simply be an extension of Him.