Air Puppets

May 7, 2021

Today’s blog is from last Sunday’s homily by Fr. Michael Schleupner and shares a creative analogy that makes the scripture come alive! We’re blessed to have Fr. Mike for weekly Mass on Fridays at the Center and he will also be a spiritual director during our August Directed Retreat (click here for more information). Let’s read his thoughts about a funny sight during a drive around the area.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

~John 15:1-8

Air Puppetsremaining with Jesus

The other day, I was driving on York Road in the Timonium area. I couldn’t help but notice the NTB store – National Tire and Battery. They had one of these tall air puppets out front drawing everybody’s attention to a sale that they had on. I’m sure you know what I mean. These air puppets are made out of a nylon-type of material and usually have really bright colors – yellows, reds, greens, purples, and on it goes. Often, they often have a face and arms, like a person. And, of course, the crucial thing is that are inflated by air. These air puppets are connected to an electric blower that pumps air into them, and the result is that they wiggle around and are in constant motion. They do all kinds of funny movements and gyrations.

The result, of course, is that these air puppets really get your attention. I’ve seen them at car dealerships, pizza shops, and lots of other places. As long as these air puppets are connected to the electric blower, they stay inflated and keep moving. But the minute they are disconnected, they deflate and collapse.

Vine and Branches

These air puppets help us to appreciate the image in today’s gospel. Did you notice how often the word “remain” was used in the second reading and in the gospel? Two times in the second reading and eight times in the gospel – a total of ten times – so it’s today’s key word – like the password to the readings.

Now, let’s go back to the air puppets. Here is what I am thinking. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” This image speaks of a connection between Jesus and us. The idea is that we are connected with Jesus, like the branches with the vine or like air puppets with the electric blower. We need to be connected with Jesus or “remain” in Jesus to be really alive.

This is why the passage keeps using the word “remain.” It is why Jesus himself says: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

How to “Remain”

So, what do we have to do to “remain” in Jesus? I think the most basic way of doing this is by prayer. We can pray or be prayerful persons in a whole variety of ways.

For example, we may speak to God in our own words – just expressing to God what we are grateful for or what we need help in or what we are sorry for. Having a conversation with God or talking with God in our own words is a great way of praying.

Then, we may use prayers that we have learned, like the Lord’s Prayer or the rosary or a novena. These prayers are often a helpful way for us to connect with God.

Or, we can pray by reading and reflecting on a few verses of the gospel. Here God is speaking with us, and we respond with our own thoughts and resolves that come from the passage.

Or we may just be silent. Just sit, walk, or even drive in silence and be with the Lord and let the Lord be with you in that.

And of course, we have the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This is a very special way of prayer, a visible, physical experience of Jesus remaining in us and our remaining in him.

Results of Remaining

Each of these ways of being prayerful helps us to “remain” in Jesus. And the result is that we will be spiritually alive and do good. It will be like the air puppet that keeps up all its funny motions as long as its plugged into the electric blower.

As long as we “remain” in Jesus, we will keep living in him and probably do a lot of good. That’s what Jesus means today when he says: “Whoever remains in me and I in them will bear much fruit.”

So, let’s stay plugged into Jesus and “remain” in him through prayer. As Jesus says: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

Fr. Michael Schleupner

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