For Sunday, May 6, 2012
Fifth Sunday of Easter
1 John 3:18-24
For only the third time since weather observation records began in 1871, the average temperature of the month of March in Wisconsin has exceeded that of the month of April. April 2012's monthly average was 46.3 degrees while the average temperature in March was 48.8. A 2.5-degree difference may not seem like much, but when averaged over an entire month in the spring, it is a significant event.
March in Wisconsin this year was downright balmy. And it was the same for much of the Midwest. Chicago had eight 80-degree days in March of 2012. In the previous 140 years (in other words, since 1871) Chicago only had ten total March days of 80 or above! A single month in 2012 now ends up accounting for nearly half of Chicago's eighteen 80 degree March days. Records were broken throughout the Midwest as weather analysts regaled in pointing out.
The warm March brought an early spring, which was enjoyed by so many folks. Daffodils and tulips bloomed early and fruit trees blossomed. Some inexperienced gardeners even went to home and garden stores looking for tomato plants—a worthless adventure since no store would dare stock tender plants like that before Mother's Day.
Orchards and vineyards had a different problem. Trees and grape vines, which normally ignore a day or two of warm weather in the spring, began to bud because of the extended period of high temperatures. With several weeks of unseasonable weather, cherry and peach trees bloomed and set fruit, while grape vines entered the cycle called "bud break," when the tender buds cast off their protective shell as the leaves begin to emerge. When cold and frosty weather returned in April, growers began to take extreme measures.
At Wollersheim Winery in Prairie de Sac, Wisconsin (just north of Madison), Philippe Coquard spent nights in April with the field crew protecting the fragile buds on the vineyard's vines. Using large industrial fans, called air drains, the workers would set them at the low spots of the vineyards to push the cold air upwards so that the warmer air could circulate. On the coldest nights, a tractor would drag a propane fueled "frost dragon" up and down the rows of vines. The "dragon" spewed out heated air in a desperate attempt to ward off damage to the tender shoots. By the end of the month the winery reports that it had about 23 percent bud damage. If it hadn't taken the protective measures it employed, it would have lost 75 percent of its crop.
At first read, this Sunday's Gospel might seem to be more about withering and cutting away than about preservation. But Jesus makes it clear that he wants his followers to bear much fruit. Bearing fruit glorifies the Father. Remaining in Christ, and staying close to him, means that we will bear much fruit.
In the face of clear and present danger to a crop, farmers, orchard keepers, and vine dressers mobilize everything at their disposal to make sure that the crop is protected. Wollersheim winery wasn't the only place that brought out a frost dragon in April. That action was replicated across the Midwest. The vines and fruit trees had to be saved.
Jesus does the same for us. In the face of clear and present danger to the branches of the vine, he offered himself on the wood of the cross to save us. It wasn't frost that he was fighting, but the power of evil and the mastery of sin. Through his death and resurrection he conquered the power of darkness and revived hearts that had grown cold in sin.
We, the baptized, are those tender buds sprouting from the vine. And Christ protects us so that we may bear fruit in due season.
who brings into being all that is created,
and who grants salvation through your Son,
hear the prayers of those united to Christ in baptism.
May we bear fruit in our lives
so that the knowledge of your truth is spread through all the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
forever and ever.
ELECTION SEASON GUIDELINES
With primaries winding down and political conventions on the horizon, the USCCB is encouraging pastors and parishes to be aware of the Dos and Don'ts during election season. Failure to observe certain specific guidelines could result in severe penalties to a congregation. For more information, see the guidelines at: http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/dos-and-donts-guidelines-during-election-season.cfm.
CATHOLIC COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGN—May 19–20
Many dioceses will take up the annual collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign the weekend of May 19–20. Resources are available from the USCCB on their website at http://usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-communication-campaign/collection/index.cfm. Parishes that use the publishing services of Liturgical Publications Inc can find these resources on the LPi Art & Media Portal with the keywords "Catholic Communication Campaign."
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