5th Sunday of Easter (Fr. Francis)
Somebody once compared a Christian to a basketball player. “To be a good player,” he said, “it’s not enough that you know how to dribble or avoid getting fouls. What matters most is to be able to shoot, to make points and to be productive.”
The great St. Thomas Aquinas contended that we could have an idea of religion through the meaning of the three etymologies of the Latin word religio: to bind (ligare), to read (legere), to choose (eligere). We are by nature religious beings. We come from God, and we return to God; we can live the fullness of human life if we freely bind ourselves with God, we read our life’s situation in the light of God’s kingdom, and we choose to love God above all things. Real happiness results when there is a communion of God in our lives.
Today’s gospel brings us a narrative in which Jesus conveys his teaching symbolically. Jesus draws us the picture of the vine and the branches. Jesus said: I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remain in me and I in him will bear much fruit.” The vine is a well-known biblical symbol of God’s people. Celebrating the Exodus, which is the deliverance of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt and their possession of the Promised Land, the psalmist pictures God as a vine grower: “A vine from Egypt you transplanted; you drove away the nations and planted it” (Ps 80:8).
We also know for instance that the vine grows luxuriant and drastic pruning is necessary. We also know that the wood of the vine is good for nothing because it is too soft for any purpose. The only thing that can be done with the wood of the vine is to make a bonfire of it and destroy it. With or without knowing what a vine looks like, we know that “a branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine.”
What Jesus wants to teach us in today’s gospel is the extreme necessity for us to remain. Now what does “to remain in Christ,” mean? “To remain in Christ,” mean:
First is to listen to Him and keep His words. Actually, we can refuse to listen to Him at all or we can listen to Him and then render Him lip service unsupported by any good deed. We can accept Him as Lord and then abandon Him in the midst of difficulties and temptations or attributes all of our difficulties and temptations to Him.
Second is to recognize that Christ alone is the real Vine and that without Him we can do nothing of value to God.
Third is to live in the Church which is the Mystical Body of Christ, in accordance with the statement of one of the Popes that who does not have the Church as his/her Mother, cannot have God as his/her Father.
Fourth is to see God in all persons and things even in our enemies and those things that we don’t like. Just like a woman that she paid the toll fees of the five cars behind her. May be because, the saying influenced her, “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”
Fifth is to have an active sacramental and prayer life. Do we pray always? Do we regularly go to Mass on Sunday? Do we avail ourselves of the sacrament of Confession? May be let us make a list of how many hours do we pray; how many hours do we spend for works, friends and family and in that we may be able to rate something of ourselves. How about if we spend just a few minutes talking about the word of God instead of talking less nothing?
Lastly is to be convinced that there is a need to prune the structures, methods, approaches, and others that have become old and obsolete in order to give way to new ones which in turn will themselves grow old, and to remain always with the everlasting: Christ who himself is the vine.
If we are attached to Jesus the true vine, then our faith will be nourished and we will remain in him.
Without some center of unity, groups lose their way. A team which puts its eyes on money rather than on teamwork will lose games. A family which relies on anything other than love to keep it together will fall apart. The church, the community of Jesus is something similar.
What keeps the church together at its best is Jesus. Human leadership, moral authority, ritual dogmatism, are not the center of the church. Leadership can fail, moral authority can take wrong turnings and ritual dogmatism can override the concerns of people. The center of the church is Jesus Christ. Our unity with Jesus is the central bond of the church. He is the Vine, we the branches.
Let us reflect all of these my dear friends to see to it if our lives always remain in Jesus Christ who is the vine.
Fr. A. Francis HGN