The Lord Jesus’s words seem pretty clear:
if we want life, we need to be part of the Vine, part of him.
How do we become part of the Vine?
A few weeks ago, on the Vigil of Easter,
we had a boy receive baptism, and be confirmed,
and make his first holy communion.
He wanted the life of the Vine; and he is part of Jesus now.
The life of the Vine is grace—God’s life,
which God eagerly gives us day-by-day.
God gives us his grace in uncountable ways.
For example, after Mass today,
Deb Timmerman will be giving away
some free information about the Holy Rosary.
A lot of us pray the Rosary,
but maybe some of us don’t really know much about it.
Maybe we are afraid to admit that.
There are lots of great ways to pray:
reflecting on Scripture, making a holy hour,
coming to adoration on Thursdays.
The Rosary is one of the most powerful prayers—
and there have been too many signs and miracles
associated with the Rosary to ignore.
It was Pope Pius V, leading Europe in praying the Rosary,
that saved Christendom at the Battle of Lepanto –
you’ll have to look that one up!
At Fatima, in 1917, the Blessed Mother
promised that praying the Rosary would change the world—
and about 70 years later, the Cold War ended without a shot fired!
No one has to pray the Rosary, but it’s a wonderful source of God’s life.
The most important sources of God’s grace—his life—
are the sacraments.
Last Sunday, our second-graders made their first communion.
One of our children was so eager to receive more of the Life of Jesus,
he came to daily Mass all week! That’s a powerful example.
In three weeks, on Pentecost,
we have two men, who are married to Catholics,
who themselves will become Catholic.
They became part of the Vine in their baptism years ago;
but they want all the life Jesus offers,
which comes through the fullness of the Catholic Faith.
So they will make a profession of faith, and be confirmed,
and receive their first Holy Communion.
Where does the sacrament of penance fit in?
If you’ve ever tried to grow tomatoes or cucumbers, or other vines,
you know how easy it is to break a branch.
It’s still on the vine, but it’s hanging limp.
And if it’s got a tomato on it, you know you’ll lose that fruit.
That’s what sin does. We’re the branch;
and sin bruises that link to the vine.
Mortal sin breaks it.
We might still be hanging on the vine,
but the life that flows between the vine and the branch is cut off.
When it’s a cucumber branch, we break it off and throw it aside.
But with his Vine, God heals that break: that’s what confession does.
Of course, that’s just the bare minimum
of what the sacrament of reconciliation does.
Frequent confession is a powerful tool to giving us strength,
to increasing our ability to be holy: to make us fruitful.
It’s like the boy I mentioned who came to Mass every day,
to receive Holy Communion.
No one said he had to;
he wouldn’t have been a bad Catholic for not doing it.
But he figured, why not? Why not?!
If Buschurs put a table out front, piled with cuts of beef,
with a sign that says, “Free!”
Who’s going to say, “well, I don’t know…maybe later…
only if I’m really hungry…”? Seriously? It’s FREE!
And yes, I know Buschurs can’t actually give away free meat.
But God actually can give away free grace, and he does.
And did I mention it’s FREE?
And it’s God’s own life, forgiveness of sins, God’s grace, poured into us.
Life in the vine. It feels so good!
Let me mention other ways we sustain the life of the Vine.
There are folks who have the idea
that they can be part of Christ without having any part in anyone else.
So they don’t really take part in the life of the Church.
Maybe it’s treating Holy Mass as something that isn’t for them.
Or it’s folks who think—who actually say—they can be good Catholics
without heeding the teachings of the Church.
That’s not being part of the vine; that’s rebelling against it.
It was Jesus who said, he’s the Vine, and we are the branches.
And he’s also the one who said to the Apostles,
he who hears me, hears you.
And, “as the Father sent me, so I send you.”
The Faith of the Church isn’t a buffet table,
where we pick and choose what appeals to us.
It’s a living thing, whole and entire—like a Vine.
There’s one more aspect of this we can’t ignore.
When we know what we have—life in Jesus, God’s life flowing into us—
how can we not share it?
We often ponder and pray about what God’s plan for ourselves:
what does God want me to do?
But God has a plan for every single soul he created.
That means our family members, our neighbors,
our coworkers, our county, our country, our world.
Jesus said that the Father wants us to “bear much fruit.”
What might that be?
Well, in other parables, Jesus speaks of the harvest—
and he means souls, winning souls for him.
So while I think the “fruit” means our own lives,
how can it not also include bringing Jesus others who he wants to give life to?
In the first reading, we saw how Paul was first received.
That is to say, he wasn’t received.
People didn’t trust him. Can you blame them?
They knew he’d persecuted the Church.
He’d stood by, cheering as the mob murdered Saint Stephen.
But God inspired Barnabas to reach out to him. Thank God!
Imagine if Barnabas hadn’t done that?
Maybe Paul would have given up.
If someone moves into our community,
and we don’t make him or her welcome, what then?
If there are other kids at school, but we avoid them, what then?
There are so many great things about a small, close community;
but what can be hard is to be “the new kid.”
You welcomed me, and I am grateful.
But then, I invited all of you over to the hall.
Most new people coming to town, or being hired on at work,
aren’t going to do that.
It’s up to us to be a Barnabas—especially if others are shying away:
that guy’s a little odd; that girl’s not one of us.
There’s something sobering in what Jesus said about life in the Vine:
we are supposed to bear fruit. It’s not an option.
So the question for you to ponder is this:
what fruit are you going to bring to Jesus this week?