John has a hard lesson of bearing fruit. As disciples we must bear much fruit or God might remove the branch that does not blossom. Jesus also reminds us to abide in Him because a branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine. This was the Gospel of the day as the Spiritual Exercises concluded with a final mass after the 30-week retreat.
One of the learnings from my recent pilgrimage to Spain in search of St. Ignatius, was that he was arrested because people’s lives changed so drastically after he taught them the Spiritual Exercises. People’s lives began to bear much beautiful fruit because of the work they did with St. Ignatius. Every retreat, I marvel at how much growth the retreatants make. Some dive deep into healing their lives and the directors feel privileged to witness this sacred work. Others do not bear as much fruit right away. Slow bloomers, perhaps? God is at work and sometimes the director does not get to see the flower. I have to admit that I have not had a lot of slow bloomers in my history. I am always amazed at the beauty that unfolds for the retreatants. Of course, it may continue to sprout for months and years to come and that gorgeous bouquet may not then be mine to behold.
Directing is a sacred service. We come open and leave full. We scatter seeds that may take years to blossom while others take root right away. Our listening is compassionate and focused. The trust that is required is tremendous and Spirit-led. I am often humbled by how much faith the retreatant has in us.
God is glorified in these exchanges and lives are changed–not just the retreatants but people around them, including those of us who accompany them.
Are you bearing fruit or do you need a pruning?
Have you ever planted a seed that has taken a while to bloom?
Gardener-God, pruning shears ready, you eye us and see what the harvest is. You are in no hurry to chop off our slow-blooming branches but you do keep the shears sharp. Help me to abide in you and remain fertile. Amen.