Choicest Planting

The following reflection is reprinted with the gracious permission of Deacon Dale from Ascension Church in North Minneapolis. It is where many of the Sisters attend church, a church that truly lives it’s motto life in abundance. It is based on the readings Isaiah 5:1-7, Philippians 4:6-9, and Matthew 21:33-43.
-Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna
Vineyard

Vineyard

Today’s vineyard stories are sobering readings, speaking of the judgment of God – for not responding to God’s action in our life – for not doing justice – for not bearing good fruit.  They beg the question, why am I here?  Why am I alive?  Why am I in my family, my work place or my school?  Or… “Why am I here at Ascension, in this North-side neighborhood?

Are you here to experience good liturgy, good preaching, a welcoming and loving community?  God wants us to have that.  It’s part of God’s preparation of the vineyard.  It’s part of the way God makes you a “choice planting” in the vineyard.  But it’s not the reason you’re planted here.  The reason you are planted here is to bear fruit – good fruit.

What kind of plant are you?  What kind of fruit are you producing?

As I’ve walked around the block I live on this summer and fall, I’ve watched grapevines growing on a neighbor’s chain link fence.  The vines cover much of the fence.  They’ve grown magnificently.  They have beautiful lush leaves.  But the grapes are small, sparse, mostly seed and very bitter.  The plants look good but they produced wild grapes.  The kind that came under judgment in our first reading because the owner was expecting abundant sweet delicious grapes.  What kind of plant are you?  What kind of fruit are you producing?

When you experience the welcoming love of this community of faith, don’t receive it as just a “warm fuzzy feeling” – but as nourishment to bear fruit.  When you pick up the bulletin, don’t read it like a chronicle of events – but as an invitation.  When you hear the preaching, don’t listen to the homily as entertainment – but as pruning and cultivating and fertilizing and nurturing of the choice plant that you are – a plant expected to bear abundant good fruit.

A funny thing about fruit – it’s not meant for the plant to use.  It’s to be given away to others.  And our fruit is to be given away, too. – Deacon Dale

A funny thing about fruit – it’s not meant for the plant to use.  It’s to be given away to others.  And our fruit is to be given away too – especially to those whose lives don’t seem to matter much in our society.  Whether it’s an unwanted child in the womb or a teen in a crisis pregnancy.  Whether it’s a homebound senior or a bed-bound nursing home resident.  Whether it’s someone on skid row or death row.

And in this North-side vineyard of Ascension, there are many lives that seem unimportant – sometimes even to the person them self.  There are children, who need someone to listen to them read, play with them, tutor them or mentor them.  To let them know how special their life is.  There are teens who need someone to show them there is another way besides the way of the street.  There are neighborhood moms and dads who need support and help to be a parent – to be the woman or man they want to be.  You may be the fruit they need.

Isaiah describes the vineyard and the owner like this; “He located it on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines.  Then he looked for the crop of grapes.”  God has planted us as “choicest vines” in this vineyard – not just good or great vines, but the most choice – and God has given us everything we need to bear good fruit.  The question is… Am I?  Will I?

-Submitted by Deacon Dale on the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time,
October 2, 2011

Back to School calls for Salesian Virtue: Humility

Back2SchoolParty2

"Humility is true knowledge." --St. Francis de Sales

Written by Visitation Alumna, Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

These last few weeks have been marked by back to school rituals and a flurry of fall activities. With learners young and old returning to the classroom, I am reminded of St. Francis de Sales wisdom on the Salesian virtue, humility. He says, that “humility is true knowledge.” If humility is true knowledge then we need to immerse ourselves in learning about the world, our communities and ourselves to clothe ourselves in humility, which will bring us closer to God and others.

Just think if each of us employed this attitude of humility with our neighbors in the classroom and next door — what a gentler, kinder world this would be on our playgrounds, lunchrooms, and on our streets! — Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

The Visitation Sisters say that the Visitation Spirit can best be found in St. Francis de Sales quote: “Great humility before God and great generosity with our neighbor.” Just think if each of us employed this attitude with our neighbors in the classroom and next door — what a gentler, kinder world this would be on our playgrounds, lunchrooms, and on our streets. So may the Visitation spirit of humility send you forth to seek further knowledge for greater humility and gentleness toward yourself and others bringing you closer to our loving God this school year. Blessings on your learnings wherever it may bring you.