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Every summer when I was a Boy Scout, my troop went to S-F Ranch Boy Scout Camp in southern Missouri. One summer, when I was an older scout, we decided to do the high adventure experience held on the unsettled half of the camp. No tents. No running water or electricity. No campsites.
Every night we had to set up camp, build a shelter, purify water, and rehydrate the food packets we carried. We learned a little bit about survival skills, though most of us would probably have freaked out if we really had needed to use them.
One thing I remember from my time in the “wild,” is how long people generally survive without food, water, and shelter. People can go three weeks without food. It isn’t pleasant, but survivable. Water is less; we can only survive about three days without water (though some have survived longer). The strange one is shelter; if the weather is bad then we need shelter fast, as soon as three hours.
In the gospel this week, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He explains that branches only bear fruit when they remain connected to the vine. Why? The vine feeds the branches. The vine pulls water and nutrients from the ground and brings them to the branches. Without the vine, the branches not only don’t bear fruit, but they die and become waste that is burned.
Without Jesus Christ, we will spiritually die. Without remaining connected to Jesus, we won’t survive very long. But Jesus doesn’t just supply us with spiritual water or food or shelter. Jesus offers us the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. This spirit is like oxygen. While we would die within hours or days or weeks without shelter, water, and food, we die within minutes if we don’t have oxygen. The Holy Spirit is that breath of spiritual life that without, we die almost instantly.
Do you feel spiritual dead right now? I have to admit I feel like that more often than I should. It isn’t because God has abandoned us. It’s because we aren’t taking spiritual breaths, eating and drinking spiritual food. It is because we aren’t connected to the vine. To be connected we breath in the Holy Spirit, consume true food in the Eucharist, and drink deeply of the water that fully satisfies by reading scripture. May we be branches that bear much fruit!
Take a deep breath. Then take 2nd deep breath, but this time pray this three-word prayer, “Come Holy Spirit.” Do this as many times as it takes.