5th Sunday of Easter (Fr. Vinner)
UNITY AND INTIMACY
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today’s Scripture selections emphasize the need for Christians to abide in Christ as a condition for producing fruits of kindness, mercy, charity and holiness. Last Sunday, we heard of the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd. Today, we hear another image of Jesus, that is, the vine. The Old Testament literature often speaks of the people of Israel as God’s vineyard producing sour grapes because of their infidelity (see Ps 80; Is 5; Jer 2:21; Ez 15). When Jesus applies this as his personal image, he contrasts Himself to Israel’s infidelity; he affirms his faithfulness in bearing the fruit of God’s work. God finds true fidelity in Jesus a fidelity which culminated in his self-donation on the Cross.
Let us try to reflect on what this image of the vine can help us in living out the Christian life that is expected of us.
First, the image of vine-branches demonstrates what the Church should be. As a Body of Christ, the members should remain united with their head who is Christ. The Christian’s union with Christ should be seen as something “personal”. Therefore, if our relationship with Christ is only nominal, then, it is not a true relationship. In that case, we can never be true Christians, because our affinity is only by name. And this is the problem among secularized Christians. In their life, Christ can never be observed because there is a discrepancy between their identity (Christian) and their life (morals).
Second, the fruit of the vine-branches relationship is intimacy. Intimacy is something we can gain in this kind of relationship. Intimacy suggests knowledge about the “other,” so much so that one can speak on behalf of the “other.” We also have heard this in last week’s gospel wherein Christ said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Intimacy demands a quantity of time, as well as a “quality time.” We can only be intimate with Christ if we search for him regularly, and likewise, if we seriously spend time with him in prayer and in reading the word of God.
Third, if we reflect further, the word “abiding” is significant to our reflections. Abiding is “dwelling” or “living” in the other. We can find this in the life of the Trinitarian God, in which one person dwells in the other. For instance, Jesus once said, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” In the same way, our relationship with Christ asks for indwelling. We should live in Christ and, equally, Christ should live in us. The second reading gives us a form of indwelling: love. When we show love to our brothers and sisters, God can be seen in us because of the fact that God is love. But sometimes we can split the love of God and love of neighbor. I remember a devout woman who goes to mass every day, but as soon as she goes back to her home, she becomes dispassionately cold to her husband and daughter. The husband thought all the while that his wife got the “bad attitude” from the Church, because she goes there daily. Consequently, the husband could not see Christ living in her.
This vine-branches relationship that we have reflected so far can be applied to marital relationship. The man and wife are called to live as one. A key to its fulfillment is, first, to live in intimacy which brings knowledge for each other. As years go by, each spouse should have known each other more deeply. If a wife comments this way, “Actually, my husband remains a mystery to me,” this shows that intimacy is not in a picture. But if she says, “I don’t react that much because I know that in five minutes he would calm down,” that is an index of intimacy. Moreover, husbands and wives should “dwell” in each other so that they could live as one. This takes a long process though. When both husband and wife have already lived with “one mind and one heart”, there the intimacy and indwelling happens.
THE STORY is told about a mother who said: “My married life has been like the mysteries of the rosary. When we were newly married, it was joyful. When my husband’s vices came out, it was sorrowful. When he died, it was glorious. And now I am single again, it is light and luminous!”
We need pruning in our Christian life. Cutting out of our lives everything that is contrary to the spirit of Jesus and renewing our commitment to Christian ideals in our lives every day, is the first type of self-imposed pruning expected of us. A second means of pruning is to practice self-control over our evil inclinations, sinful addictions and aberrations. Cordial mingling with people of different cultures, races, religions and orientations in our neighborhood and society also enables us to prune away our selfish and prejudicial tendencies as we treat others in the society with Christian charity and openness. In addition, Jesus prunes, purifies and strengthens us by allowing us to face pain and suffering, contradictions and difficulties with the courage of our Christian convictions. We need to abide in Christ and let Christ abide in us: The four Gospels teach us how to become true disciples of Jesus and how to abide in him as branches abide in the main trunk of the vine, drawing their life from it. Personal and liturgical prayers, frequenting of the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation, daily, meditative reading of Scripture, and the loving forgiveness of others enable us to abide in Jesus, the true Vine, as fruit-bearing branches.
May God Bless us
FR. S.Vinner HGN