A team that built itself to a championship: the Kansas City Royals. Developing players, making good trades for young talent, picking up the occasional veteran, choosing good field leadership and sticking with it. For the 1st 16 years, they were as consistent champs as any in baseball, and without buying it like Steinbrenner did.
Then they lost track of their roots, of what made them what they were. They started making trades to win now, something they never did before, made the dramatic moves in free agency to win one more pennant. They also failed to invest in their scouts, their player development as they should, and by the early ‘90s the stream dried up. In the big buck, free agent era, they gave away a strategy that made them competitive and became perennial losers. They have hope now, because they’ve gotten back to their roots, and the logic has proven itself again.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus uses the example of the vine and branches. He uses this image to remind the disciples of their relationship with him. Branches cut off of the vines do not survive on their own: they are not like blossoms that you can hold in a vase for a short period of time. Branches cut off of the vine do not produce grapes. Without the grapes, they have little use in themselves except as fuel for a fire.
Jesus also speaks about pruning branches: cutting off part that don’t contribute to the growth of the vine any longer. It is part of the art of the vine grower to prune vines carefully so that the vines are not permanently damaged; pruning makes way for new growth.
As we look at our lives, we are called to remember our source in all things. We come to acknowledge where we come from, and where we are going. We come here to get at our roots, to draw on our connection with the vine so that we may blossom as we should. We also come to be pruned. What are we here to get pruned? Will it hurt?
Most of the things we need to lose are things that our own wants and expectations have built up for us that are selfish in nature. We can have grand flights of fancy, we want to be the best at what we do. It’s all right to work to be the best; not trying to be the best is a way to sell ourselves short. However, there is a great temptation to give ourselves over to our own egos when we overrate ourselves and what we can do.
One thing we come here for is to have our egos deflated a bit. We come here to let go of fantasies that tempt us to unrealistic exaltation of ourselves. We are called to recognize how we wonderfully are gifted, and where the limits of those gifts are. Most importantly, we are called to remember that God will make up whatever we’re missing. We are part of a larger whole, we are part of a greater kingdom than our imagination.
We are connected to Christ, especially through the Eucharist. As we wrap up another school year, we will be apart for a while, some of us we’ll see rarely. However, just as those first apostles stayed together over distance in the early Church, we are always together in Christ. If we are connected to the vine, we are always connected to the other branches, no matter where they are.