HOMILY: FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: STAY CONNECTED-VINE AND BRANCHES
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Union with the Head – The Vine
We always want to identify with our heroes or the people who inspire us most in life. These are people whose life has motivated us to be what we are and where we are today. We see young people trying to talk and act like prominent film actors, sports champions or some role models that inspire them most. Sometime ago, during a Bible study session we had a discussion about great biblical heroes and at the end each participation was to mention his/her hero/ heroine. Most of them mentioned the names of movie actors, except one who mentioned Mother Theresa as her model. I thought at that moment that not many kids are so familiar with the stories of great saints, biblical figures and historical giants to the extent of having one of the saints, biblical personalities or historical figures as hero or model.
In Jesus, we see a perfect model whose life and footsteps we can follow. He describes himself as the vine and his followers as branches. The connection of the vine and the branches implies the fusion between human nature and divine nature. One of the beautiful prayers, which express a deep longing for the fusion of human and divine nature, is that inaudible prayer, which the priest says when he mixes water and wine. ‘Through the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbles himself to share in our humanity.”
UNION WITH THE COMMUNITY- FELLOW BRANCHES
The Apostle Paul describes the union between the human and divine when he says, Jesus is the head and the church is the body (Colossians 1:18). Thus, the body has to remain connected to the head to be alive and to function properly. It is this union of the body and the head that is called communion. People frequently ask: ‘Why is it necessary for me to come for the Mass or any liturgical function or community prayer when I can stay in the comfort of my room and communicate with Jesus?’ The answer is we cannot communicate with a head and neglect the body. Many people forget that intimacy with Christ is incomplete without a relationship and solidarity with the members of his body, the church. Flor McCarthy, A Scripture analyst mentions the increasing loneliness in some societies today where people consider their pets as their most loved ‘person’ in the world. He adds, ‘there is no such thing as a solitary Christian. Therefore, as branches of the vine, Jesus invites us to form a community of love, in which we share the joys and pains of life and celebrate the goodness of God as a community.
PRUNING FOR PERFECTION
Jesus speaks about the Father pruning the vine to make it more fruitful. We can consider pruning to mean the pains and the suffering, which we undergo in life to make us more productive. Thus, the father prunes us when we experience persecution and disappointment. The pruning process can be very discomforting but necessary and so we cry and shout just like babies do when they are dipped into the water for a bath or when they have to take injections or during a hair cut or plaiting of the hair. Pruning, painful as it is, has the capacity to bring about new life and it produces perfection just as a tree, which is pruned, comes out with new leaves, displaying a new beauty.
REAL LOVE – TRUE INTIMACY
St. John writes to the early Christian community saying ‘my children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active (1 John 3:18). If the church is to be relevant to our everyday life, we all have the obligation to revive that sense of community, which has eluded us because of individualism. Gone are the days when everybody knows where everybody lives. In many urban areas relationships between people is getting more and more superficial. People gather on Sunday in great numbers, but hardly know one another, let alone aware of the struggles that each person or family is passing through. In some cases, relationships in religious and church communities have become more formal than cordial and for many other people it is simply a mere hello and good-bye on Sundays.
In order to be vibrant and to stay connected with one another, many parishes now encourage people to form little groups or communities of faith. These groups provide opportunity for people to gather during the week to study the scriptures and align their lives with the light of the Gospel message. Everyone needs a community to live a meaningful life and no person is an island. Just after his conversion, St. Paul needed a sense of belonging into the Christian community, but the community was very doubtful about admitting and accepting him into the fold. They were afraid of him, because he persecuted Christians and they were not sure if his conversion was genuine. The community put up roadblocks and red flags to stop him from coming close. It was Barnabas who had the courage to receive Paul and introduce him to the rest of the community. Barnabas displayed an act of real love to someone who was at a critical point of his life and who desperately needed community support. In the same way, we need make our communities more receptive and inclusive.
In any case, the individual or the community are mere branches that can thrive only when they stay connected to the source, which is the vine. When human-divine connection takes place they “Will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). Hudson Taylor, who was a zealous missionary says: “The branch of the vine does not worry, and toil, and rush here to seek for sunshine, and there to find rain. No; it rests in union and communion with the vine; and at the right time, and in the right way, is the right fruit found on it. Let us so abide in the Lord Jesus.” Those who stay connected with vine produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit which include Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Benignity, Goodness, Modesty, Faith, Chastity, Mildness and so on. <br
5th Sunday of Easter; Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
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