Friday, December 16, 2005

Life in the Vine (Penance Service Homily)

“I am the Vine”—the true Vine, Jesus tells us;
“you are the branches”—“remain in me.”

Full of hope—but, very demanding as well.

Notice where this puts us—
Right in the middle of it all.

So if we ever wonder,
“Why is our spiritual life such a big deal?”
Or, “Why is it a commandment
to attend Sunday Mass?”
Or, “Why does the Church seem to have
do’s and don’ts for so many parts of our lives—
what does it matter?”

It’s because of who you and I are:
Jesus did not say:
“you’re a leaf—not very important.”
You did not hear that, did you?
He said: you and I are branches—
that’s important!

A lot depends on us!
Think about it:
what do the branches
need from each other?

“Hey, branch—I need your help!”
“Hey branch—you’re turning brown—
you’re going to fall off!”
Most of the voices around us
tell us we’re on our own;
We don’t have to answer
to anyone but ourselves.

Sometimes we think
“it’s just between me and God.”
But that’s not how the Vine works.
We need each other—including spiritually.
Each branch not only draws life from the Vine,
But also shares it back, for the others.
A lot of branches spring off of other branches.

If we set a bad example,
if we’re drooping, spiritually,
We affect the other branches.
Even our “private” sins
diminish the life of the Vine.

As a priest, I often challenge you
to pray, to change, to grow spiritually.
But that goes both ways.
If you look at me,
and you think I need to pray more,
I need to change—
maybe I’m drooping, spiritually—
please tell me!

We help each other by forgiving;
We can help each other
get back in the Vine;
But only if we accept responsibility
for each other.

You and I come to this sacrament,
and maybe feel awkward.
This is the pruning Jesus spoke about.
It can hurt; but it makes us fruitful.

The Good News about this Sacrament is that
if a branch has broken off, fallen off the Vine,
This is when God puts it right back in!

“Hey branch! You’re drooping down—
Don’t give up!
Here’s what the Vine gave me: Here’s Life!”

1 comment:

joeh said...

Father Raoyl Plus wrote in his book "Radiating Christ" the following:
"The first and obligatory means of union with God, essential union with God, is the state of grace.

What would happen if you bassed white milk through a coal-sack? How much whiteness would remain after the experiment? The more pronounced the personal imperfections of an apostle are - selfishness, egoism, the spirit of criticism, pride, impurity - the more the graces of God will be adulterated, spoiled and attenuated as he attempts to transmit them to others."

In thinking of this as I read of the vine and branches in your sermon, our lack of the state of grace or any real strong mention of the need for it in our lives has left us without feeling a need for reconcilliation with our God.

Father Plus when talking of the layity continues:
The layman, on the other hand, being unable to administer grace through the sacraments, can make use only of the opus operantis, that is to say, of his own virtue and power. And if, when he is doing his apostolic work, he is lacking in the essential degree of virtue, if he is not in the state of grace, what can he give to the world save empty words, meaningless gestures? How can he create life when he himself is a corpuse? A lay apostle who is not himself alive with the life of God, or at any rate striving to live that life, is a useless cog in the machinery."

Father Plus goes on to talk about "How our Lord acted before beginning the preaching of His Gospel? He prayed and lived a life of recollection for thirty years. What a lesson for us, who are always wanting to get to the end before we start the journey, who, having only the tiniest stock-in-trade, are anxious to give out what little we have as soon as we can, and thus become bankrupt!"

He continues, "Now our Lord is about to start work. He is thirty years of age; the time has come. Now we shall hear Him. No, not yet. He goes off into the desert for forty days."
Does Christ need it? Not at all: but He wants to set us an example.


I found this book and many more from years ago that are very profound and carry meaning through the ages at the Ohio Book Store in downtown Cincinnati. It seems that have acquired many volumes from closing convents and seminaries over the years that are no longer in print.

Our only hope in staying close to the vine is to stay in the state of grace so that we have hope of hearing the whisper of His voice. I haven't heard the term the State of Grace in a sermon in years.