by Jodi-beth McCain
Jodi-Beth McCain joined the CCTheo staff in 2023 as our Grant Director. She is trained in all three levels of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Jodi-beth is also the Director of Religious Education, and an Elementary Catechist at Christian Family Montessori School in Washington DC.
During these days of Lent, I look forward to reading the account of Jesus before Caiphas in Matthew 26. I wonder aloud, “Does anyone deserve to die?” Year after year, the children reply, with conviction, “No!” No one deserves to die.
Preparations for the celebrations of Reconciliation and Communion are also woven into our Lenten days. As we read the words of Jesus about the True Vine, I wonder to myself about the branches that are “thrown on the fire and they are burnt.” For children who know that no one deserves to die, how do they hear these words? Does any branch deserve to be thrown away?
I recently read the True Vine with a group of elementary children. The next day, children voiced their concerns. One called Jesus’ words a “warning”. Another shared, “if we don’t remain on the vine, God will burn us alive”. And another asked, “If my family doesn’t believe in God, will we be thrown in the fire?” This child then helped me to write a new scripture booklet; we omitted the words about the fire. The next week, all agreed that this revised version of John 15 sounded more like the Good Shepherd; the tension in the group lifted.
The same child who helped me revise the scripture booklet shared a page from her journal with me. Along with a drawing of grapes she had written, “no one gets thrown in the fire in the Kingdom of Love”. These children know that all are welcomed branches on the True Vine, and this knowing is deeply important to them.
But what about the blockages that disconnect us/our branches from God and from each other? What about violence and injustice? What about all that we wish may be burned?
This Lent the Level 3 children have been praying imprecatory psalms (psalms that call for God’s judgment) and sharing with God all that angers them. They have called out to God about:
when nobody does anything about dictatorships,
the lack of help for homeless people,
attempts to destroy the Ethiopian church,
As we pray together, we give our anger to God. We ask: God, please help us.
This Lent, as we prepare to celebrate Jesus rising from death to life, may we proclaim along with the children that no one deserves to die. May we proclaim God’s Kingdom of Love where all are welcome and belong. May we entrust our anger to God, proclaiming that our God is great and just and with our help, will right all wrongs.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Thank you for this wise, beautiful and powerful sharing. May we let these children lead us.
I believe we need to experience the trouble and the grace in a scripture passage before we can proclaim the Good News. (Trouble + Grace = Good News) So I offer for reflection Brother Ignatius Feaver’s reflection on the True Vine with CGS leaders in Canada during a very difficult and tumultuous time in the history of our Canadian Association. He offered to us – as gift – the line – “and the branches that are pruned are thrown in the fire.” We, too, found this image challenging and confusing. Brother Ignatius reminded us that only branches that are not bearing fruit are pruned. The gardener ensures the vine’s fruitfulness by pruning out the diseased, disordered branches – the ones which cannot bear fruit. And grapevine branches will root where ever they touch soil (regardless of whether they are diseased or disordered). So the ‘good’ gardener will take the disordered, diseased branches out of the vineyard and then place on a fire to make sure they do not root and steal nutrients from ‘true’ vine.
Brother Feaver emphasized that it is not our job to prune, or pick up the branches that have fallen, or place them on the fire – it is God’s job – the Good Shepherd’s job. And the nubbin of branch left on the ‘true’ vine is then free to grow and bear fruit ‘to the glory of God.’ The nubbin of branch is restored to good health, able to see, to hear, to leap with joy as it is once more in right relationship – once again filled with the love, tender mercy and spirit of God.
Yes – I agree for the first reading of the True Vine with the Level 2’s – leave out the fire.
Then when the children are curious about themselves making mistakes, getting hurt and hurting others – lets give them the Good News: resurrection – new life in abundance, pressed down, and overflowing.