5th Sunday of Easter, B
Acts 9:26-31; Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8
(Scriptures included after homily)
We call it “Communion” and “Community.” Or putting it another way, we can say that it’s coming into union, or coming into unity, with God, and with one another. And when that union or connectedness is especially close, we call it, “Oneness.”
Jesus told us that in a marriage union, the two people become one flesh. Male and female, their complimentary union makes them, together, greater than either one of them could have ever been, alone. And through their complimentarity, God blesses them with the creative ability to grow and bear fruit. In the process, a whole new community is created. We call it a Family, or the Domestic church.
And in that Family, a whole new “Oneness” develops: mother and father and child, complimentary in their differences and bound together by such an indescribable force, that the term “Love,” almost does it injustice. And yet, it is with that same word, Love, that John describes the very essence of our God.
You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, the whole concept of a marital union and the growth, the fruit that it provides, is simply a metaphor, like the grapevine, for our eternal union with God, in Christ Jesus, bound together by the Love of the Holy Spirit, which we share with one another. Jesus tells us that there CANNOT be growth outside of that union. And where there is no growth, all that remains is death.
Today we heard St. John and Jesus use the phrase “remain in” me, at least 10-times. I think Jesus wanted to make the importance of that point unquestionably clear! For you see, just as a tree or a vine cannot live if it is severed from its roots; or, just as a light bulb cannot shine in the darkness, apart from its electrical source; or just as an infant cannot survive, separated from his maternal care; neither can humanity survive, separated from its Creator.
Jesus IS the Root, the Source and
the Summit of all Life . . .
And as Baptized, Catholic Christians, we, or our parents, have committed our lives to “remaining in” Him. And yet, that phrase, “remaining in,” as it has been translated from the Greek word, meno, is actually a weak translation relative to its original meaning. We might, instead say: “Abide in me,” or “Live in me,” or “Stay so close to me” that we become – ONE.
You see, “remaining in” is not like hanging out until the music gets boring, and then leaving. It’s not like waiting at the bus stop until the rain starts pouring so hard that we decide to walk instead. And it’s not like staying married until he or she decides to buy that ugly car, and then finding someone else with a prettier one.
But it IS – REMAINING – in union with Jesus against all odds; despite the temperature of the building, despite how bad we might think the homily is, and despite the taunts of our anti-Christian neighbors. It’s being willing to DIE, rather than break that union with Jesus . . .
Abiding in Him, is knowing that apart from Jesus – there IS nothing but death. While together, as St Paul says, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” Ph_4:13
“I am the vine and you are the branches.”
But then we might ask, “Just HOW do we do that? How DO we stay THAT connected?” And we might even argue that, “It’s not IN our human nature to stay that committed to anything or anyone, especially in today’s society.” And then we remember those words again: Communion and Community and Connectedness. You see, that is exactly why we have our Church!
The priests are here to bring us back to Jesus through the Sacraments.
When we’ve sinned – there’s Reconciliation, and Jesus is here forgiving us.
When we’re ill – there’s Anointing of the Sick, and Jesus is here healing us.
When we’re in love – there’s Holy Matrimony, and Jesus is there uniting us.
When we need strength, and courage, and wisdom – there’s Confirmation, and Jesus, along with the Holy Spirit, is here enlightening us.
Or if we ever get to feeling spiritually empty and hungry for God – then there’s always that Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, our Holy Eucharist, and Jesus is not only here, but He IS Living within our very beings. He ABIDES in us and we in Him, nourished in our Oneness.
And when we need just another ‘ordinary Joe,’ like you and me. When we need someone to confide in, someone to bounce our thoughts off, someone to help us grow in our faith – that’s where our Community comes in. Because, you see, in answer to our argument about human nature, we are absolutely right in saying that it is NOT IN our human nature to stay committed.
But BY the grace of God,
by the strength of the Holy Spirit,
by the love of Jesus, AND
with the support of our Community,
remaining in union with Jesus for our entire lives
is not only possible, it is wonderful, and awesome,
and extreme! It IS our greatest JOY!
St. Paul gives us our classic example. His vision of Jesus got him SO excited that he woke up a whole new man ready to conquer the world with his new found Love! But, did that vision get everyone else as excited? No! As a matter of fact, they wanted to kill him. But did he hang it up and quit? No! With the strength of the Holy Spirit, He persevered.
And then, when he tried to meet the very people who knew Jesus personally, the Apostles, and they rejected him, on the spot, did he hang it up and quit? No! But through that Love of Jesus he was given a supporter in Barnabas, who convinced the Apostles to take another look at this – new Paul. And with their acceptance of him, Paul became an invaluable member of a whole new family, the Body of Christ.
Paul was uniquely different, and yet, he was that complimentary, brother; that adopted Apostle, who would be pruned to bear fruit, in abundance.
In the years that followed, as Paul continued to persevere against hunger and imprisonment, in the face of legal trials, and whippings, and shipwreck:
he was never abandoned by Jesus,
nor his Community.
And that Community grew and bore fruit, just as Jesus said it would! And here we are, 2000-years later, as members of that same Family, this Body of Christ, some 2-billion strong; ALL at different stages of our own faith journeys.
Jesus tells us that, IF we remain
in union, in oneness, with Him,
and with our Catholic Community,
BOTH equally important;
through our Love for one another,
we WILL bear – the fruit of Eternal Life
that Jesus Promises to everyone
who Believes in His Name
and Follows His way.
And in that Oneness,
in that Connectedness,
WE are called to
leave NO souls behind!
Scripture Readings for the Mass of 05-03-15
The Fifth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B
First Reading: Acts 9:26-31;
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.
He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him. And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus.
The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32;
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the LORD. The lowly shall eat their fill; they who seek the LORD shall praise him: “May your hearts live forever!”
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; all the families of the nations shall bow down before him.
To him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth; before him shall bend all who go down into the dust.
And to him my soul shall live; my descendants shall serve him. Let the coming generation be told of the LORD that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown.
Second Reading: 1 Jn 3:18-24;
Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.
Gospel: Jn 15:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
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