Become the Branches
Picture the Holy Week stories as a tree. Notice the smallest branches.
Picture the Holy Week stories as a tree. Trunk thick, branches strong, roots deep.
At the center stands the shoot of Jesse, the new life that is Jesus.
What overlooked branches stretch out from the center? Not the biggest limbs that hold up the canopy, but the offshoots that push out in all directions, some small and spindly, some long and twisting?
In a week when we tell the greatest stories, what happens when we look twice at the smallest branches?
On the last day before everything changes again, what stories whisper to us to pay attention, to speak the truth we’ve seen, to live into the mystery of the Triduum?
The servant girls in the courtyard at night. (Two in one Gospel, one in the other three.) The women who recognized Peter and called him out as a Jesus-follower. Were they intrigued by the Galilean’s strange teachings, too?
Even in a culture that silenced the voices of women and the poor, we know the role these women played in Peter’s trinity of denials. We know their words. They must have told their stories.
They became branches.
The centurion who saw the truth and testified at Jesus’ death that he was exactly who he said he was. What did the solider do after that day of ordinary work when he helped kill an innocent man, the Son of God? Did conversion crack open his life, or did he keep going as before, troubled beneath his power and privilege?
We know his words. He must have told his story.
He became a branch.
Simon of Cyrene who shouldered the same cross. What happened after he put the wood back on Jesus’ shoulders? What stories did he tell, to friends or family or any stranger who would listen, of that strangest day and heaviest task?
We know his name and his hometown. He must have told his story.
He became a branch.
The women of Jerusalem who wept along the road. Jesus stopped and spoke to them, their lives and their children, even their bodies that carried and nursed new life (or did not). He saw them and left them changed.
We know the hard prophecy he gave them. They must have told their story.
They became a branch.
Tonight at Easter Vigil we will tell our sacred stories. So many stories that your head will swirl, and this is precisely the point.
Look at how long God has been at work in the world, preparing the way for redemption from the beginning of history until now.
Look how strong the roots stretched for the tree of life, drawing nutrients from creation’s soil, pulling water from the earth. Centuries and centuries of ancestors journeying with their God, leaving and returning, turning away and turning back.
Look how many branches rise skyward, raising limbs up and out to the world, lunging away or wrapping round each other, some leafy and lush, some barren or broken, all sprung from the same trunk, all drawing from the same roots.
Underneath the giant canopy of leaves and limbs, let yourself notice the smaller branches, even the twigs or shoots that look like they’re going nowhere. Each one is part of the story, connected to the same complex system.
What if all we can do is tell our own stories, small and hidden and ordinary, or life-changing and upheaving and extraordinary?
What if this is how the tree keeps growing and stretching toward the sun?
What if this is how we become branches?
But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25)