HOMILY


Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)                                                      John 15:1-8                                                                                                                      

 Years ago a man named Orestes Lorenzo, a Major in the Cuban air force, flew a MIG attack bomber from Cuba to the naval air base on Key West, FL and asked for political asylum. In a few months he acquired a used Cessna aircraft and through a friend sent coded messages to his wife Vicky, preparing to get her and their two sons out of Cuba. He arranged to have her be at the side of a new stretch of highway at sundown on a given day, at a certain time. Flying low to avoid Cuban radar he swooped down onto the highway, screeched to a halt and within minutes he was on his way back to Key West with Vicky and the boys safely aboard.

This is an example of the love between a man and a woman and the children they brought into the world, this love is a bond more powerful than life itself. This man was willing to risk his life, the lives of his family, the freedom he had recently gained in order to gain a life of freedom for them all.

Today’s gospel is a continuation from the long discourse of our Lord. Delivered to the Apostles at the Last Supper; a farewell address on the night before he died. His purpose was to console and strengthen them against the ordeals of the coming days. He told them not to be troubled, but to trust in God. Where he was going they would follow later. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is in the Father and the Father is in him. His death will not be the end; he will still live, and they too will live. His life is not being taken from him, he is laying it down in obedience to his Father. Anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father. Keeping my commandments will be proof that they love him.

Jesus goes on in today’s excerpt to describe the intimate union that must exist between him and his followers. He says that He is the vine and we are the branches and the Father is the vinedresser. The vine is like a small tree rooted deep and firmly in the ground from which hundreds of branches grow in all directions. The branches and the vine share the same life, even though some branches may grow great distances from the vine, the branch depends for life on that vine. The life that runs through the vine and into the branches is God’s life, a bond of love. Through our baptism of water and the Spirit our little branch begins to grow from a spiritual empowering and grace filled origin from which we can draw a meaningful and useful existence. But as our branch grows out into the world at a distance from the vine we are tempted to leave the vine and go off on our own.

Having the ordinary comforts of life and possessing of some of the goods of this world is not evil. But we are tempted to get more and more of these comforts and material things until we can easily reach the point where these things become our only purpose in life. It is then, that the world becomes our idol and our prison. I don’t have to tell you of the pitfalls, the temptations that surround us. The whole gospel assures us that this life in Christ will keep us alive and fruitful. But the assurance actually becomes a requirement… a requirement that we persist in our origin. "Remain in me, as I remain in you." ---- Listen carefully to Jesus' words, for the requirement is urgent and important — behind it lies a warning. For if you do not remain in me you will be cut off and burned in the fire. Do we know someone who seems cut off from Christ? … We must pray for them, pray hard for them and invite them to come back in subtle ways or bluntly if necessary.

Our own daily experiences of pain and disappointment might be the pruning that takes place in order for us to bring forth more fruit. Our primary focus must be to stay united to Christ's divine life through the gifts of His word and His own Body and Blood. That bond of love flows between He and us no matter how far we seem from Him. It unites heaven and earth, it unites time and eternity. It is divine, it is truly awesome, for only the Almighty God is awesome.

We here call ourselves community. We say we are in communion because the same divine life flows through all of us who belong to the body of Christ. But community has to have more than just coming together to worship. The members of community must love each other, not just with words but with deeds. Visit and comfort the elderly and the sick. Invite someone who is lonely to your home. Provide transportation to the disabled. Something as simple as joining the parish community for coffee and fellowship. Smile and give the sign of peace with peace in your heart.

As we go to communion today and we feel the surge of new life within us, realize that we share that life with all our brothers and sisters around us.

 © JOSEPH MEILINGER 2021