Driftwood on Laurel Lake
Homily for Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Preached on May 5, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Readings: Acts 15:1-6; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5; John 15:1-8
I served my summer as a deacon at St. William Church down in London, Kentucky. I was told early on that it would be a shame for me to be there for the summer and never get to visit Laurel Lake. And so, one sunny afternoon, parishioners Chad Jackson and Everett Hathorn took me swimming to the clear blue serenity of Laurel.
The truth is that I’m not that great of a swimmer so I stayed close to the shore as much as I could. And it was there on the bank of one of the islands that I came upon driftwood stuck in the mud. It was a dried-out branch, around six feet long, but what really fascinated me was its resemblance to the staff of Gandalf the wizard in The Lord of the Rings. I took it with me, washed the mud out, and used it as a prop for my homily on Jesus’ directive to His disciples “to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick” (cf. Mk. 6:8). I kept it around the house for a while until one winter night when it got so very cold that I broke it into pieces and used it as firewood for my hearth.
That dead branch reminds me of what happens to us when we get ourselves cut off from Christ. At first, we would probably drift on the waters of the lake, but even that much water won’t sustain us for long. We would dry out eventually, won’t grow any more leaves, won’t bear any more fruit. The fact is that it is being connected, it is being attached to Christ that keeps us truly alive. It is Christ the true vine who feeds and nourishes us (cf. Jn. 15:1). If we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit, but without Him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). Without Christ, we would simply end up like driftwood on Laurel Lake, floating to the shore until we end up being a stick in the mud, waiting to be picked up by someone else for their firewood (cf. Jn. 15:6).