Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter – on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Root Yourself in Christ

Acts 9:26-31

1 John 3:18-24

John 15:1-8

Many of us are familiar with the sad American Indian story about a young man who found an eagle’s egg and put it into the nest of a prairie chicken. The eaglet hatched with the brood of prairie chickens and grew up with them. All its life, the misplaced eagle thought it was a prairie chicken and did only what the prairie chickens did. It scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. And it flew no more than a few feet off the ground with a thrashing of wings like other prairie chickens. Years passed and the unfortunate eagle grew very old. One day, it saw a magnificent bird high above in the cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared gracefully on its strong golden wings. “What a beautiful bird!” said the unfortunate eagle to its neighbour. “That’s an eagle, the chief of the birds,” the neighbour replied, “But don’t give it a second thought. You could never be like him.” So the poor eagle never gave it a second thought and it died thinking it was a prairie chicken.

This frightening story underlies the importance of what we identify ourselves with. Human beings are like vine branches; we need a vine in which to graft and root ourselves. The vine into which we are grafted and rooted conditions the way we see ourselves, the expectations we have of ourselves, and the ceiling of achievement we place on ourselves. Vines come in many shapes and colours each soliciting our primary allegiance. They come in the form of nationalism such as Nazism, ideology such as communism, and religion such as the cults. Materialism, pleasure and power are among the most popular vines of our times. Once we identify ourselves with a false vine, it immediately conditions and determines how we see ourselves and what we do with our lives.

The Jews whom Jesus was addressing in today’s gospel knew very well the vine on which they were supposed to be grafted and rooted. Many times in the Old Testament the religious and national entity Israel was referred to as the vine (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:7; Hosea 10:1) which the hand of God had planted (Psalm 80:15; Jer 2:21). The Maccabees even minted a coin in which a vine was used to represent Israel. So when Jesus claimed that he was now the vine they would understand that as an invitation to shift their primary allegiance from Jewish nationalism to the person and message of Christ. To make sure they get it Jesus makes the claim that he is not just the vine but the true vine. The word “true” (in Greek alethinos) here signifies that which is real, authentic and valid, as opposed to that which is flawed, imperfect or false. To accept Jesus at the true vine into which our lives are grafted and rooted is to regard every human ideology or institution which recommends itself to us as an object of primary allegiance as flawed, imperfect or false.

The misguided eagle in our story was like a branch grafted on a false or imperfect vine. That is why it remained false or imperfect all its life. If a wise bird had told it the truth about itself it would have shifted its self-identification from that of a prairie chicken to that of an eagle. This radical shift in self-understanding would then enable it to produce in its life the marvellous feats for which eagles are known. Today that word of wisdom is being addressed to us: to stop identifying ourselves primarily in terms of nation, social or economic status, race, gender or religious affiliation. Rather we should see ourselves in terms of our oneness with Christ just as the vine branch and the vine are one. Then and only then shall we be able to bear good fruit, the same type of fruit that Christ himself bears.

We know the pathetic story of Cardinal Wolsey who, under King Henry VIII of England, gave his primary allegiance to the state rather than to God. On his deathbed he left us these words of wisdom: “If I had served God as diligently as I have done the king, He would not have given me over in my gray hairs.” His life was like that of the unfortunate eagle in the story. The gospel invites us today to know better: to graft and root ourselves as vine branches into the true vine, Jesus Christ.

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5th Sunday of Easter – Cycle B

 Homily # 1

John 15:1-8

Bare Good Fruit!

Most of us know that women and men have different approaches to many things. This is certainly true for my wife and me. One example is how Karen and I take care of what grows in our yard.

I’m a trimmer. When the right day comes along, and they seem to come along less frequently as I get older, I surge out into the yard with my clippers and trim every bush in sight—hey, it’s trimming day! For many years I got into trouble because of a Lilac bush. Lilac bushes will not bloom in the spring if they are trimmed too soon. I trim so early in the spring that I never knew that the bush was a Lilac, because it never bloomed.

My wife is a pruner. She prunes our vines throughout the year so that they will continue to produce more flowers. As the summer comes, the flowers disappear and Karen again prunes the vine and it produces even more flowers.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is using an agricultural image that the people of his time could easily understand and it is one that most of us can also appreciate. Jesus compares himself to a vine, with each of us being a branch. Faith is what binds the branches to the vine. If we maintain our faith in Jesus, we can bear much fruit in the world. However, if our faith in Jesus withers, we will not produce much fruit for the Kingdom of God. Jesus is not thinking here of a material-kind of fruit that we are tempted to produce for ourselves.

Early when I was in the business world, I was producing too much material fruit and too little spiritual fruit. My connection was closer to the material world than to Jesus. Jesus then pruned me by separating me from my job. With more time on my hands, I began to think more about spiritual things and to become more connected to Jesus. After finding a new job, I repeated a similar process again. Over several experiences like this, my relationship with Jesus became firmer and my relationship with my job became less important.

There’s one part of the gospel reading that I don’t like to contemplate: Jesus says, “Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” This may be one of the places where we get the idea that Hell is a hot place.

Jesus will prune us and give us the opportunity to bear more fruit for the Kingdom. Here is where free choice comes in. God always invites us and we have free will to accept the invitation or not. Some of us are very independent and we do not want anyone telling us what to do. But, the consequences of saying “yes” or “no” are so dramatically different. We can remain in Jesus and bear much fruit, or we will become a withered branch that will be burned.

All of us become pruned during our lives. Each of us is on our own personal journey of faith and will be pruned in different ways and at different times. Pruning involves some type of suffering, be it physical, mental, or spiritual. Each pruning is an opportunity to draw closer to Christ.

We must examine each pruning to discover what we have learned and to not consider recovery from the pruning as just one more personal conquest of adversity. God is working in each one of our lives, even when we are totally ignorant of him doing so.

The Good News of staying connected to Jesus is that he says, “…ask for whatever you want and it will be given to you.” Of course, God gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want. It usually takes awhile to realize the difference.


Homily # 2

When Jesus arrived in heaven, all of the angels were there to greet Him. After the formalities, they asked Him whom He had left behind on Earth to finish up the work that He had begun.
Jesus answered, “Just a small group of men and women who love Me”. “That’s all”?! asked the angels, who were completely astonished. “Are You kidding us. After all, these are human beings we’re talking about here. What if this tiny group should fail”? Jesus replied, “I have no other plans”.
Well, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us that we are His plan to finish up His work on Earth. We are to be the ones to bear much fruit. Let me give you a little example of the fruit that one person can bear.
Many years ago, a college professor had his sociology class go into the slums of Baltimore to get case histories of 200 young boys. The students were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future. In every case, the students wrote, “He doesn’t have a chance”.
Twenty-five years later, another sociology professor came across the earlier study and had his students follow up on the project to see what actually had happened to these boys. Twenty of the 200 boys had either died or moved away. Of the remaining 180 boys, 176 of them had achieved more than ordinary success in the world. They had become businessmen, attorneys, doctors, engineers, etc.
The astounded professor decided to pursue this further and personally interviewed each of the men. The one question he asked them was, “How do you account for your success”? To a man, they replied, “Well, you see, there was this teacher…”.
The teacher was still alive, so the professor sought her out. Even though she was quite elderly, she was still very alert. When asked what was her magic formula for the boys’ success, she gently answered, “It’s really quite simple. I loved those boys”.
And, isn’t that exactly what God is asking us to do too-to love other people? And, the best thing about us “loving” other people is that Jesus is right there to help us. After all, didn’t He say in today’s Gospel, “Whoever remains in Me and I in him, will bear much fruit”?
I think that Jesus specifically use the analogy of the vine to show us, not just how interconnected we are with God, but also how we are bound inextricably to one another.
Jesus used the lowly vine because, even though grape vines are gnarled and twisted around each other, they are extremely strong-just like the Church which He set up for us-the Catholic Church. In addition, the vine underscores the fact that there are as many pathways to growth in God as there are members in the Church. Just look around. No-one in this assembly here today has taken the exact same road to get here. But, we’re all still here, aren’t we?
And, we’re here because God wants us to be here-to make our home in Him as He makes His home in us. After all, “home” is where we belong. Home is where we come back to all the time, especially when things aren’t going too well. Home is our safe harbor in times of trouble. Home is where love is.
But, our home-our Church-isn’t full yet, is it? How many people have not “come home”-have not come back to God, their true home, because no-one has reached out to them-to love them; to befriend them?
We have to be the ones who help them. We have to be their friend-to help them “come home”. You know, there are millions of people out there who would gladly come home-come back to God-if someone would only invite them. Are we willing to be a friend of God and invite someone to learn more about the Church that He personally set up for us? Are we willing to help someone save his/her soul?
The love that Jesus has so graciously given us cannot be kept to ourselves. It has to be passed on to others. Think about this for a minute. Let’s say that you did help someone come back to God and save his/her soul. Maybe, when they share their testimony with other people and these people ask them how they came back to God, the person will say, like the boys in Baltimore, “Well, you see, I had this friend…”


Homily # 3

When Jesus spoke about a vine and the branches, the Jewish people understood exactly what He meant. Theirs was an agricultural society and vines and branches were a source of food.

What is a vine? It’s usually a single strand of fiber that carries nourishment to the branches. When we see a flowering vine, a morning glory or a moon flower, we see the branches but the vine isn’t as impressive as are the flowers. However, without the vine there are no branches or no flowers or no fruit. As with any vegetation, the branches don’t usually develop unless someone takes care of the vine to allow the nourishment to reach the branches. And so we might say, “Jesus is gone. Therefore, we have lost our vine.” No, because the vine that He planted IS OUR FAITH. The secret, however, is continuing to care for that vine .. to nourish it, to water it and to feed it.

Jesus says, “I am the true vine and My Father is the grower. As a branch cannot bear fruit unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”

It is true that Jesus has left us but He has also provided each of us with the tools we need to continue to nourish His vine and to bear much fruit. That’s why Jesus died and rose from the dead for us.

What tools did He provide so that we might continue to nourish His vine? Every vine needs moisture, fertilizer and pruning. Jesus has left us with all the tools we need. We have the rosary, we have the commandments, we have the bible and we have the poor who need out help. But the most important tool He has left us is the Mass. Yes, at this very moment all of us are nourishing His vine with the most effective tool He has given us.

Have you ever asked or have you heard this question, “Why should I come to Mass? I get nothing out of it.” Well, let me ask you a question. Some of you are students. What do you get out of going to school? “Oh, I get an education so I can go on to high school or college and someday graduate so I can go to work and be rewarded with a good job.” Basically, we go to school so we can be rewarded with a diploma.

Well, what do we get out of work, whether that be in the work force or as home maker?

The reward is a salary and the higher the salary the more things we can buy and the better home we can afford and the more exotic vacations we can take. We can be rewarded handsomely in the work force. Bill Gates of Microsoft is an example. He’s worth, billions, yes billions of dollars.

How am I rewarded by nourishing the vine and the branches that Jesus has left us? How will I be rewarded by the Father, the vine grower? With much more than Bill Gates has. Listen to what St. Paul writes, quoting Isaiah, the prophet:

Eye has not seen, ear has not heard
Nor can the mind of man imagine
What God has prepared for those who love him.

Can you believe that? WE can’t even imagine what he has prepared for us. Is it worth the time and effort it requires to nurture the vine Jesus has planted to reap the rewards He promises? No one has ever received a better offer.

How much time does it take? Coming here this morning requires possibly an hour and twenty minutes. Attending one Mass during the week takes another 45 minutes. Saying 2 or 3 rosaries a week, in our car while we’re driving to school, the office or the super market doesn’t take any of our time. Cell phones can be dangerous, we’re heard the golden oldies a thousand times and missing Rush Limbaugh is not going to affect our eternal life.

If we are going to nourish the vine of our faith, we must take action as we do when we fertilize our yard. Jesus said, “Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing.” But, it’s not all good news! He adds, “Anyone who does not remain in Me will be thrown out like a branch, people will gather them and throw them into the fire.” Jesus is not being judgmental. He’s merely stating a fact. Everything He says if for our benefit. He has promised us salvation but it’s not like winning the lottery. We must cooperate with Him each day of our lives.

When I make this next suggestion you’ll decide that I must be crazy but I’m not. Do you like television commercials? Everyone here is saying, “No!!!” Well, the next time you are watching television have a Bible next to you. When the commercial appears click the “mute” button and read a psalm. Listen to this, from Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters He leads me;
He refreshes my soul.

To read this passage takes about 15 seconds and reading the entire Psalm takes about 40 seconds. During one commercial we can read many of the Psalms. It’s really very simple. If we don’t nourish our faith by reading the Bible, by coming into this Church more often than once a week and by obeying the Commandments, we are not nurturing the vine that Jesus has planted in us. Today’s gospel also tells us, “(The Father) takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit.”

Jesus loves us! He wants every one of us, those of you in school, those working or retired, to join Him in Heaven. He has provided the “vine” that we need but He is asking, and possibly more than asking, us to nurture that vine so it bears fruit.

As we consider the fact that we are all busy, we all have responsibilities and deadlines for term papers, projects at work and chores around the house, let us also consider what Jesus did.

He left Heaven and came to live with us so that we could be with Him someday in Heaven. With Mary’s pregnancy He was with us for 33 years. Can you imagine what is must be like to leave Heaven for just one hour? Jesus did it for 33 years. When we feel we don’t have enough time for Jesus, consider this: There are 8,760 hours in each year and that means Jesus was with us for 289,000 hours in 33 years.

And if sometimes we feel we don’t have another minute to spare to nourish the vine Jesus planted in us by saying a rosary or reading the Bible, remember that Jesus spent 33 million minutes here on earth, away from His Father so that we would have the opportunity to someday be with Him.

Why do we come to Mass? What do we get out of the Mass and spending time with Jesus?

The mind can’t even comprehend
What God has prepared for those who love Him!

Take the time!


Homily # 4

Pope John XXIII once had a guest who asked him  “How many  people work at the Vatican?”  The Pope replied,  “Oh, about half.”   I wonder how that compares with our local parishes.  God the Father is  concerned about that question in today’s Good  News!  Notice I put an exclamation point behind Good News, because that’s what it is!

I also wonder how many of us talk about our faith, our Catholic faith to others.  If we don’t, why not?  Maybe we feel strange, maybe bashful, afraid of being ridiculed, called names, maybe  lose friends.

There’s a story about a young man who knew, because of his Baptism and Confirmation that he was called upon to proclaim the Gospel.  He was shy and timid, and of little education.  He felt that the task was beyond him.  He thought about it over a period of time, then came up   with a good idea.  Each week he set aside a certain amount of his wages and with this money, he bought simple booklets about Jesus and the message of the gospel.  He placed them in hospitals, waiting rooms, railway stations, doctor’s waiting rooms and everywhere people would be waiting.

One day he actually heard a new convert say, “My introduction to the Church came through a booklet I picked up in the waiting room of a railway station here in town.”

The gospel is between two phases, Come and see, and Go and tell, and if I am not actively engaged in evangelizing others, chances are that I have not been evangelized myself.

Today’s readings are just that, the story of evangelization.  In order to understand this first reading, we must remember that Saul (later named Paul) was a fierce persecutor of the young Christian church.  It is not hard to realize why the disciples would be wary of him.  After all, he could be faking, just to get into their midst and do more harm.  It took one of their trusted members, Barnabas, to convince them that Paul   had indeed, seen the light of Christ.  As we know, it didn’t take long for  Paul to get into the mission field.  Even though there were threats everywhere on  Paul’s life.

The last paragraph draws a picture of how the church lived in peace and the numbers grew despite the conflict and struggle that surrounded it.

In the gospel, John writes of the “mutual indwelling” and the parable of Jesus about the vine and the branches.  We can only live in Christ because he is the true vine.  We are the branches and we as branches cannot live without the life-giving vine.

I remember one year going to Mass while we were on vacation at the Lake of the Ozarks. It was a Saturday evening Mass, the church was crowded with tourists and some of the locals.  The celebrant read the gospel, and after he finished, he just stood there, not saying a word.  Gradually, the church became very quiet, expectant.

You could hear a pin drop.  Finally the celebrant slowly said, “Jesus Christ or hell!” and walked off to continue Mass.

A friend , who was with us, not of our denomination said , “What more is there to say.”  Where would we be without Jesus Christ?

The point, like the image, is clear.  We are so much a part of Christ and he is so much a part of us, that separation can only mean death for us.

The consequences of that oneness  are obvious, too.  Firmly joined to the vine, we can bear much fruit.  Pruned of our debris  and dead wood , we can bear even more fruit.

Now let us  look , not only at our individual relationship with Christ, but with the collective relationship we have with him.  The vine does not have one branch, but many, as Christ has many members.  He wants us to come to him not only as individuals, but as a people.  When we come to him at Mass, what are we doing?  We are praying together, with the priest, who represents Christ, not just as individuals, but collectively as God’s people.

Do I know my role in the Body of Christ?  What is it?  Am I carrying it out?  Am I serving the Body of Christ in my family and my parish?

The disturbing news in today’s gospel is that we are in for suffering.  God is pruning away our dead growths for burning.  It is time for us to ask,     “what have I done for Christ and his church?  What am I doing now?  What will I do in the future?  Will I be pruned away as dead wood, or live and grow in Christ?’   Let us think about it, pray about it and do something about it.


Homily # 5

If there is one bit of folk wisdom that captures the soul of the American people it would be this: actions speak louder than words.  We Americans are a pragmatic sort.  We like thinks that work and people who get things done.  We are up and doing and only if there is time do we engage in reflection.  Even spiritually we emphasize experience and pastoral ministry more that the contemplative lie. Deep down we like Martha and are a little suspicious of Mary!

Our readings have a decidedly American flavor.  The first letter of John reminds us that love is a verb and not a feeling; a decision by the will and not a rush of hormones.  Love must cease to be only words and become concrete in the here and now.  The word becomes Flesh.  The talk of love must become the deeds of love in truth: “Little children, let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.”  At some point talk loses its value.  Action counts.

We see this clearly in our first reading from Acts.  The Apostle Paul before his conversion is Saul — the one who went about persecuting the body of Christ. Saul returns to Jerusalem after encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Of course, the Christian community is very afraid of Paul and disbelieving that he has changed.

Saul explained everything that happened to him.  However, the community was still very suspicious.  St. Luke tells us that, “Saul stayed on with them, moving freely about Jerusalem and expressing himself quite openly in the name of the Lord.”

Saul combined words with deeds.  Saul knew if he was to gain a hearing with his new community he would have to show that more than words were involved.  In the face of all the skepticism and doubt, Saul let his behavior validate his words. His new life story required that he live a new way in his daily life with others.  Saul fearlessly preached in the name of Jesus and some even tried to kill him.

The words of the first letter of John and the example of Saul confirm the importance of words and deeds; not just sentiment but action.  In fact we can say it is through out daily, committed action that we give evidence of our fidelity to the person of Jesus.  The Fourth Gospel powerfully continues the notion of action and words giving way to deeds.

The word of Jesus has cleansed the disciples as they grow in closer union with him, the true vine.  Jesus has been with them for three years.  He has revealed himself as the Son of God and given them the teachings that lead to eternal life.  In a short time Jesus will show them the depth of the divine love on the cross.  There is quickly approaching that time when Jesus will return to the Father.

However, Jesus will not leave them orphans.  The Paraclete will be sent to indwell in their hearts and the community as a whole.  The emphasis is now going to shift from Jesus-in-their- midst to the disciples living in the world through the Spirit.  Again we see that this new phase in the Christian story call for action:  “I am the vine and you are the branches.  He who live in me and I in him will produce abundantly, apart from me you can do nothing.”

These words from Jesus are crucial.  For apart from Jesus all of our works are empty and without lasting meaning.  The fruit that we bear apart from Jesus, the true vine, is self-serving and easily corrupted.. However, when our words and deeds become one in praise of the Father we produce the works of the Spirit.  Through the Spirit we bear that fruit which lasts until eternal life.


Homily # 6

In our Gospel Reading today, our Lord says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”  Let us focus on what Jesus means when he says this to us.  He tells us that if some of the branches do not produce fruit, his Father, who is the vine grower, will cut them off and cast them into the flames.  Furthermore, those that do produce fruit are pruned so that they can produce even more.  This should not seem strange to us since the Lord himself tells us that whoever remains in him will be rewarded.  So if we choose to remain with him he will see to it that we produce abundant fruit.  In fact, if we are united to him we just about have to produce more fruit.  The Christian who does not produce more fruit will be cut off and thrown into the fire.  But Jesus also reminds that even though we are his faithful followers, there will be times when we will be tested, when we will encounter problems and difficulties.  It is at these times, in the testing, that we are pruned, that we are purified.

The chosen people of God, the people of Israel, were frequently compared to the vineyard of the Lord in Sacred Scripture.  What was important for the members of that community was to act in accordance with the commandments of God.  They had to follow strictly the more than 600 laws that were contained in the Old Testament.  But the words that we have heard in our Gospel today show us that when Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, came to the earth, the image of the vine and the branches that the Hebrew people used to describe their relationship with God changed radically.  Christ tells us that he is the vine and we, Christians, are the branches who receive from him the sustenance we need to give us life, to sustain us.  Christ himself, in the Holy Eucharist, gives us his own life so that we can continue to grow in our faith.  When we eat his Body and drink his Blood we are introduced into the fullness of the new life of the vine onto which we were grafted when we were baptized.

What the Lord wants to make clear is that we no longer have to follow the old rules under the Old Testament.  By living among us, by dying for us on the Cross, Jesus has given us sure knowledge of the Father and he has shown the great love that he has for us.  In the Second Reading, Saint John tells us that there is a new commandment: that we should believe in the name of Jesus Christ and love one another.  After we were baptized, after we decided to believe in Christ, we were no only able to say in words that we are sons and daughters of God the Father, we were able to say it with certainty since Jesus has told us that that is who we are.  When we were baptized we acquired the rights and the power that stems from being part of the vineyard of the Lord.  And it is through faith, prayer, liturgy and word that we are able to find a new life, united more closely to Christ in his Church.

If the branch is to be strengthened it must be pruned, it must be purified by the Lord so that it can give more fruit.  If we want to follow the Lord, if we are willing to allow him to do this, we should ask him to free us of anything that can slow down the growth of our faith, anything that can impede growth in our spiritual life.  “And we will conserve this life,” as Saint Cyril of Alexandria says, “if we remain united to Christ as if we were grafted on to him; if we follow the commandments that he gave us faithfully and we try to preserve all the good things that he has entrusted to us.”


Homily # 7

OK, let me get this straight.  I, as a Catholic and a branch of the true vine, am supposed to bring Christ to everyone-all of the time.  Are you kidding me?  Sometimes I have trouble staying spiritual for 15 minutes after the world’s best retreat.  God has got to be joking, picking me to represent Him!  I wonder if any of you ever felt the same way.  I mean, we just can’t do it on our own, can we?

Well, someone very wise once told me that our ministries are to bring to others what is not our own.  After all, if all we had to bring to other people is what was our own, our contribution wouldn’t be of very much use to them, would it?  Thank God, what we’re asked to bring to others is from Him through the Holy Spirit.

That’s why it’s so comforting to know that we, the little and weak branches are supported by the strong vine.  In times of trouble, when we are tempted to just give up, Jesus is right there holding us in His eternal love.

And, it’s also comforting to know that His love is what empowers us to produce fruit in our world.  You know, there’s a big difference between successfulness and fruitfulness.  Success comes from strength and control.  Success brings rewards and recognition.  Fruitfulness, too, can often come from weakness and vulnerability and frequently goes un-rewarded and unrecognized.

Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t ask us to be successful, by worldly standards, that is.  He calls us just to be fruitful.  Each and every one of us has a gift, possibly many gifts.  By, developing and using and sharing our gifts with others, we become fruitful.  The world is waiting for our gifts-our fruit.  God’s love will make our gifts fruitful, whether we see the results or not.

You know, I think that one of the traps that we fall into, especially in materialistic societies, is that we think that God is only blessing us when things go our way-when we can see our successes.  But, nothing could be further from the truth than that idea.  How many times have we gone through a living hell, only to look back afterward and see that we came out better people for our trouble?  Maybe someone was able to help us by using their gift from God.

And, our gifts cannot just be limited to our friends and loved ones.  No, Jesus calls us to share our gifts with everybody-even people we don’t care for.  When we do this, we are actually sharing His love with the world.  I wonder how many people have been saved because a Christian shared Christ’s love with an unbeliever.  On a personal note, I wouldn’t be here today if someone hadn’t told me about Christ’s love, when Mary Elaine had her cancer surgery in 1982.

So, do you truly follow Jesus?  Do you bring His love to others?  Are you a little branch attached to the true vine, bearing much fruit?  Do you try to bring Christ to everyone?  Are you an inclusive person or an exclusive one?

I’ve got a true story to share with you that might help us focus on what I’m trying to say.

During WWII, a priest was stationed as a missionary in China.  In 1944, the Chinese government expelled him for what they called ‘subversive practices’.  His first stop on the way home was in India.  While he was there, he discovered a large community of Jews who had escaped from the Nazis and their persecution.

No one in the area did anything to help them.  These Jews lived in attics or barns or just slept outdoors.  They begged for food and only had the most menial of jobs, when they could even find work.  They had very little in the way of food or medicine.  Their situation was just about unbearable.

Anyway, since it was near Christmas time, this priest sold his boat ticket and bought some pastries for the Jews so that they could celebrate Hanukkah in a nice fashion.  The priest then wired his bishop for more money so that he could get back to the States.

When he finally arrived home, his bishop called him in and scolded him.  He said to this priest, “Why on earth did you do that?  Those Jews don’t believe in Jesus”.  The priest replied, “Ah, but I do”.

Do you?  Do you?


Homily # 8
Acts 9:26-31

1Jn. 3:18 -24

Jn. 15:1-8

If I held up a picture of Uncle Sam and asked what country he symbolized, everyone here would say the United States .

If I held p a picture of a hammer and a sickle and asked what country it symbolized, everyone would say Russia .

If I held up a picture of a maple leaf and asked what country it symbolized, many of you would say Canada .

But if I held up a picture of a grapevine and asked you what country it symbolized many of you wouldn’t know. Maybe if you were a biblical scholar or a student of the bible you might know, because the Bible often used the grapevine to symbolize the country. And the country as you have probably guessed by now is Israel —God’s chosen people.

The grapevine symbolizes togetherness, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” We are connected and must stay that way.

The other day, I pulled up to the self service pump. They wouldn’t turn on the pump until I went in and left them my credit card. Yuk! Wasted time and that feeling of being just another nameless person in their otherwise non-descript and impersonal day of toil.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “No big deal; happens to all of us. It may be irritating, but it’s understandable with all the drive offs they’ve had. Don’t let this bug you, it happens all the time. Besides isn’t it a bit egotistical to think they would know you?”

Yeah, except…

I’d been going there for years!

I knew all the folks behind the counter.

It’s a few blocks from my house.

I fill up there three times a week.

This is “my” gas station.

Was I irritated? Yep! I let the guy behind the counter know my disappointment. He did recognize me, he just hadn’t paid attention when I pulled up. I understood, but I was still disappointed. I also felt “un-special.”

That’s when the spirit knocked on the door of my heart with a convincing insight.

How many folks walk in our church buildings, sing our songs, eat with us at the Lord’s table, shake our hands for years, yet we don’t know their name? So they walk away feeling “un-special.”

How many folks go away from a church service and never have anyone greet them by their first name? So they walk away feeling “un-special.”
How many aren’t even recognized as belonging to our church “family” during our grip and grin sessions in the foyer or during greeting times during the assembly? So they walk away feeling “un-special”!

The old line from the cheers theme song is as true for church as it was for that neighborhood bar: “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.”

Part of our church experience is seeing folks we know and love. We’re excited to see them and want to catch up on things. We get so caught up in our visiting with those we know that we overlook those we don’t know. Nothing is quite as hurtful a going in a place where they are friendly with each other, but you are left out. You walk away feeling very “un-special”!

The holy spirit reminds us that the other side of our church experience is being there for other folks. We’re there to encourage each other and to stir one another to love and good deeds. We’re there to make sure each person who comes knows they are precious in his sight.

The next time you head out to enjoy your friends at church, why not also find some folks you don’t know. Introduce yourself, then make a commitment that when you see them again, there will be at least one person who will call them by their name! Let’s make sure no one leaves feeling “un-special.”

Gas station story by: Phil Ware

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Word Alive

Christianity is bearing fruit

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

May 8, 2009, 9:23pm

ln a divorce court, a woman angrily told the judge: “Your honor, I want to divorce my husband who’s working abroad.”

“Why?” asked the judge. She replied, “Because he is not faithful to me.” The judge asked, “How do you know?” She replied, “Your honor, not a single child resembles him.”

* * *

That’s just a story but somehow it conveys Jesus’ gospel message of this 5th Sunday of Easter that if a branch is separated from the vine, it cannot bear real fruits much like that wife who’s separated from her husband.

* * *

Christ used what was familiar to his time and people to impart his teaching. He compared a true follower of his to a plant.

A plant does not only sprout or grow but also bears fruit. “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (Jn 15:5-8).

* * *

Christianity is not a negative religion of “don’ts” or just avoiding sins, but one of “do’s.” Christ makes it clear by saying, “You must bear fruit in plenty.”

“Bearing fruits” boils down to the simple acts of helping, caring, sharing with others. I’ve just returned from a pilgrimage to Guadalupe, Mexico (thank God, I didn’t get the swine flu!) and afterwards visited relatives in San Leandro City, California.

* * *

After saying a Mass the parish church the pastor confided to me how blessed he was for having many Filipinos in his parish.

“My Filipino parishioners not only come to church regularly but also volunteer their services for free. “For instance, there’s a Filipino accountant who comes regularly to do the bookkeeping in the parish after her office hours,” he said. “The others volunteer as lectors and eucharistic lay ministers and their kids serve at Mass. Family members join the choir and form the majority of the parish organizations.

* * *

Other forms of “bearing fruit” are caring for the emotional needs of others,
like offering companionship to the sick and lonely; speaking words of hope and encouragement; showing acceptance and giving recognition to the efforts of others.

* * *

In the Parable of the Last Judgment, Jesus says that only those who faithfully carry out their Christian ministry of helping, caring and sharing will achieve eternal life.

In that awesome moment, we will not be asked such questions as: How often have you been to Mass, or how seldom? How many prayers have you said?

This is not to say these acts of piety are not important. What the Lord is saying
is that the fruit of all our prayers, our worship, our Bible study and theological probing should flow to the ministry of loving service.

* * *

How much good works am I doing, especially for the less privileged? Am I a Sunday mass goer but am harsh, unkind and inconsiderate with my fellowmen?

Do I bear in mind Jesus words: “Every tree, therefore, that is not bearing good fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 3:10).

* * *

A man once confessed, “What scares me most is when I come face to face with God in the next life. Mother Teresa of Calcutta reports and God says, ‘Teresa, you should have done more good works’. And there I am — right behind her!”

Only three virtues will remain: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is LOVE. (1 Cor 13:13).

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Moments
Hold on

By Fr. Jerry Orbos

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!”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 15, 1-8) Jesus tells His disciples, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” This is the secret of perseverance and endurance: To remain in God, no matter what. Whatever “mysteries” we go through in life, if we hold on to the Lord, we will continue to live, grow and, yes, bear fruit.

* * *

It is easy to hold on to the Lord in joyful, glorious, and light moments, but all the more we should hold on to Him on our sorrowful moments. In fact, there’s only the Lord to really hold on to at such moments. Instead of letting go of God, we must hold on to Him and not succumb to misery, despair and hopelessness.

* * *

It is not enough to just exist. We must grow, and persist. Yes, we must remain in God and bear fruit. We must not just be living branches. We must be fruit-bearing branches. For those who are still alive, and who perhaps are living abundant lives, the question remains: Am I living a fruitful life? Have others benefited from my life?

* * *

Ask anyone who has been “pruned,” and he/she will tell you how difficult it is to accept it in the beginning. “Why?” “Why me?” “Why now?” These are the questions that are usually raised, and many times, there are no answers. Right away, anyway. And so, one can put up a fight and say “Unfair!” or one can stay still and say, “OK, Lord, I trust you. Prune me!” The sooner we say the latter, the sooner the healing and the moving on.

* * *

“Why me? I am a good person? Why do I receive these trials and sufferings?” Perhaps the answer to this age-old question can be answered by Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit.”

* * *

Mama Mary is our example and inspiration in how she handled the so many “prunings” she went through. She remained focused on the Lord and on her mission through it all. The secret of her equanimity was her ability, readiness and willingness to place everything in God’s heart. “Thy will be done” is not the prayer of a weakling. It is the prayer of a son/daughter who has come to terms with his/her humanity, and has come to accept God as God Almighty, and a Father who is filled with love, wisdom and mercy.

* * *

In our Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag after the “Walk with God” last May 3, 2009, Mama Mary arranged it in such a way that Ted Failon and four PNP generals ended up sitting together. How a mother wants all her children to live in peace and harmony! A mother’s heart knows deeply and loves truly. Today, Mother’s Day, let us greet Mother Mary and ask her to continue to bless us, the world and our country.

* * *

Our Mama Conching is now 87 years old. Except for a frozen shoulder and elevated sugar level, Mama is healthy, alert, and ambulatory. She goes to Mass every day and when unable to, she attends TV Mass, complete with all the gestures of kneeling down and standing up. I don’t know how many rosaries she prays every day along with our house help. She reads much, and she writes much, sending letters and cards to relatives and friends, reminding them of God’s love, and to trust Him. Mama is a person who is deeply rooted in God and we, her children, are very privileged to have a prayerful and loving mother. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. Salamat ya balbaleg!

* * *

A lot has been said about the transformation of Aling Dionisia, mother of people’s champ Manny Pacquiao. She is now fondly called Mommy Dionisia after her first trip to the United States. But one thing that has not and will not change is this woman’s deep devotion to the rosary and the Blessed Mother. Whether it was in her little house in General Santos City, or in her suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, she was there, praying for her son, holding on to the Lord and to the Blessed Mother.

* * *

Pacquiao himself, in spite of all his wealth and fame, continues to humbly hold on to the Lord. He always has a pre-fight and post-fight Mass. He kneels down in prayer before and after every fight. When Bob Arum was reciting all the factors that led to his victory over Hatton, Manny interrupted him and said: “Don’t forget the Lord.” Indeed as long as we hold on to the Lord and don’t forget Him in whatever mysteries we go through in life, we will be all right.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to hold on to you no matter what mysteries in life I go through. Amen.

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Bearing Fruit

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

May 4, 2012, 10:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — A Few years back a student of a Catholic college was being initiated into a Catholic organization. He was asked: “What are the most important requirements of our faith?”

Without batting an eyelash, he replied, “Going to Mass on Sunday and receiving Holy Communion.”

These are, indeed, required of every Catholic but definitely that is not enough.

* * *

In this 5th Sunday of Easter, Jesus compares a true follower of His to a plant. A  plant does not only grow but should also bear fruit. “He who abides  in Me,  and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…By this my  Father is  glorified, and so prove to be  my  disciples” (Jn 15,5-8).

What does Christ mean by “bearing fruit”? Our faith must be productive in acts of love as well as lead a life of moral integrity.

* * *

John the Baptist expressed it concretely, thus: “Whoever has two shirts must give one to the man who has none, and whoever has food must share it.” He adds: “To the tax collectors: ‘Don’t collect more than what is legal.’ To the soldiers: ‘No extortion; do not bully, no false charges.’” (Read Lk 3:11).

Hence, Christian faith should not be content with merely going to Mass or receiving Communion, as that student in the above story said.

* * *

“Bearing fruits” can take the form of caring for the emotional needs of others, like offering companionship to the sick and lonely; showing acceptance and giving recognition to the efforts of others. Another form might be getting involved in some religious and parish work. A few years ago, when I was in San Leandro, California, USA, the parish priest, Fr. Tom Snyder, confided to me how blessed he was for having many Filipinos in his parish.

“My Filipino parishioners not only come to church regularly but also volunteer their services, like an accountant doing the bookkeeping after her office hours gratis et amore. The men volunteer as lectors and eucharistic lay ministers and their kids serve at Mass or the choir.”

* * *

In the Parable of the Last Judgment, Jesus says that only those who  faithfully carry out their Christian ministry of helping,  caring, and sharing will achieve eternal life. In that awesome moment, we shall not be  asked such questions as: How often have you been to Mass, or how how many  prayers have you recited?

That does not mean that Sunday  Mass going and prayers are unimportant. But the fruit of all our prayers, our worship, and Bible studies should flow to the ministry of loving service.

* * *

A man once confessed, “What scares me most is when I come face to face with  God in the next life. Mother Teresa of Calcutta reports about his works of charity and  God says,  ‘Teresa,  you should have done more good works.’  And  there  I am – right behind her!”

The teaching of Christ today reminds us that, as His followers, we should bear plenty of fruits of good works and moral values.

mb.com.ph/articles/358819/bearing-fruit

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MANATILI AT MAMUNGA: Reflection for 5th Sunday of Easter Year B – May 6, 2012

May tatlong magkakaibigan na nagpapayabangan sa kanilang pananampalataya: isang Muslim, isang Hindu at isang Kristiyano. Nagpunta sila sa isang mataas na gusali at nagpasiklaban sa kanilang sinasambang “diyos.” “Sige, tatalon tayo sa gusali at hihingi tayo ng tulong sa ating diyos at ang makakaligtas ang siyang may pinakamakapangyarihang diyos!” Unang tumalon ang muslim. Sa kalagitnaan ng kanyang pagbulusok ay isinigaw niyang “Allah.. iligtas mo ako!” Lumagpak siya sa lupang bali-bali ang buto. Sumunod naman ang Buddhist. Nakapikit siyang nagmeditate at pagkatapos ay tumalon. Sa kaligitnaan ng kanyang pagbulusok ay sumigaw siya ng “Buddha iligtas mo ako!” At nang malapit na siyang lumagpak sa lupa ay parang himalang dinala siya ng hangin na animo’y bulak at dahan-dahang bumaba sa lupa. At sa kahuli-hulihan ay tumayo ang Kristiyano. Nagtanda ng krus at sabay talon. Sa kalagitnaan ng pagbulusok ay sumigaw siya ng “Hesus, Anak ni David, iligtas mo ako!” Aba… lalo pang bumilis ang kanyang pagbulusok! (9.8 m/sec2) Nang malapit na syang lumagpak ay biglang sigaw ng: “Buddha… Buddha… tuloooong!!!” Tayong mga Katoliko nga naman, madaling kumalas sa ating pananampalataya kapag nahaharap sa kagipitan. Ano nga ba ang nagbibigay ng kasiguruhan sa ating pananampalataya? Sa ating Ebanghelyo ngayon ay gumamit ang Panginoong Jesus ng isang paglalarawan: ang sangang nakakabit sa puno! Ang sanga ay mabubuhay lamang kung ito ay nakakabit sa puno. Ang ating pananamapalatayang Kristiyano ay mananatili kung ito ay nakaugnay kay Kristo! Noong tayo ay bininyagan ay tinanggap natin ang pananampalatayang ito. Iniugnay tayo kay Jesus. Sa katunayan ay tinaglay natin ang Kanyang pangalan… KRISTIYANO! Ngunit hindi lang sapat na nakakabit sa puno. Dapat din ay namumunga ang sangang ito! Ang ating pagiging Kristiyano ay hindi lamang “baptismal certificate.” Ito ay ang matapat na pagsasabuhay ng ating sinasampalatayanan sa pamamagitan sa pagsunod sa utos at kalooban ng Diyos. Sa panahon ngayon na nababalot ng materyalismo, komersiyalismo at hedonismo ay hinahamon tayong mamunga bilang mga Kristiyano. Hindi madali sapagkat ang pinaiiral ng mundo ay kasarapan at kaginhawaan ng pamumuhay. Ayaw ng mundo na kahirapan. Ngunit kailangan ang pagtitiis kung nais nating mamunga. Sabi ng Panginoon: “Pinuputulan at nililinis ang bawat sangang namumunga.” Tanggapin natin ang kahirapan ng buhay bilang pagpuputol at paglilinis ng Diyos sa atin. Kapalit ng pagtitiis na ito ay ang masaganang bunga naman para sa ating may pananampalataya. Manatili tayo kay Jesus. Mamunga tayo ng sagana sa pamamagitan ng mabuting gawa. Ito ang ang tanging paraan upang tayo ay maging mga “buhay na Kristiyano” na may kaugnayan kay Kristo!

kiliti-ng-diyos.blogspot.com/2012/05/manatili-at-mamunga-reflection-for-5th.html

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Moments

Connected and united

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:51 pm | Saturday, May 5th, 2012

The story is told about a wife who, as a sign of her undying unity and connection, put in her husband’s coffin his cell phone. Imagine her shock when, two days after the burial, she received this text message: “Here na me. Follow na you, ok?”  (I am already here. You follow, OK?)

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Jn. 15, 1-8), Jesus tells us to remain united with Him. The branch must remain united to the vine so that it will bear fruit. Let us look at our lives and see if we are really living a life that is deeply rooted and firmly attached to the Lord. Otherwise, our lives would be empty, meaningless, vain, fruitless and unworthy.

* * *

As long as we remain in and with the Lord, we will be all right. Our problems begin and multiply when we cut ourselves off and stay away from the Lord. A lot of our problems and life’s complications would have been avoided if we just held on to God, in spite of, and no matter what.

* * *

I pity the innocent children who are fruits of broken relationships. Just because someone did not love enough, or chose the easy way out, others will suffer the consequences. There is wisdom in staying on, and choosing the road of patience and sacrifice.

* * *

“If you quit, you might regret it.” This is the advice I give to those who have troubled relationships. The bottom line is that when we come face to face with God, we can tell Him that we did our very best, and we have exhausted all the avenues and means. Remember how far easier it is to sever than to persevere, to give up than to wrap it up, to say “the end” than to say “let me try again.”

* * *

Mama Mary allowed me to meet this week Fr. Walter Villamiel, a brother priest who has an interesting life and vocation story. He is an only child, took up nursing at the University of the Philippines, and worked for 10 years as a nurse at the Philippine General Hospital. He said that as he went on serving the sick, he realized that more than medical interventions, he felt the need of God among those he ministered to. This rekindled his childhood dream of becoming a priest. He gave up a lot, and now, Father Walter is a Notre Dame De Vie priest in Novaliches, Quezon City. When I asked him why he became a priest, his answer was simple: “All these years, I held on to Mama Mary who led me closer to Jesus, something I learned from my parents early on.” Stay close to the Blessed Mother, and you will come closer to, and will never abandon, Jesus.

* * *

My heart was crying when I prayed over an 8-year-old cancer patient, Gilbert, at the hospital recently. His left leg will be amputated as a result of bone cancer. What gave me inspiration was the deep faith of his parents, who have unwavering hope that the Lord will help their only child get well. I can never forget, too, the smile Gilbert gave me as I asked him to give me the thumbs-up sign before I left his hospital room.

* * *

I am sure all of us have some “holding on” moments and stories to tell, and I do not mean holding on to sin, power, pleasures, or bad relationships. More than these, I know that many of us hold on to goodness, values, self-respect, and ideals. Please don’t let go of these. In time, these will bear fruit, if not in your lifetime, maybe in those that come after you. Just keep on planting good seeds. Someday these will bear fruit, and give you a reason to smile!

* * *

Congratulations to Mayor Bobom Perez, his city officials and the people of Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, which recently was named the cleanest, greenest, and safest city of Region 1.  What made it possible? Work, lots of hard work. And focus, staying focused on doing our mission for God’s people. May we have more public servants who are focused on the good of our people, not on the goods of our people.

* * *

By the way, please be reminded that pruning goes with fruit bearing. If you are experiencing any sort of pruning right now, be consoled and be assured that the Lord is preparing you for something good up ahead, be it a blessing or a mission that is forthcoming. Consequently, if you don’t experience any pruning of any sort, perhaps you are living a life of constant lying or denying.

* * *

“More fun in the Philippines!” Good battle cry for our tourism. More than these, though, let’s stress the other Fs that will help us grow stronger as a nation, and these are freedom, family, and faith. Let us be vigilant and let us fight anything or anyone that would destroy our freedom, our families, and our faith.

* * *

Think about this: “Don’t be just like cigarettes. Don’t let people buy you when they need you, and step on you when they’re finished using you.”

* * *

May 13 is Mother’s Day and we take time to remember and say thank you to our mothers who sowed good traits in us. As Marcel Proust once said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, no matter what happens, please help me stay connected and united with You. Amen.

opinion.inquirer.net/28171/connected-and-united

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May 3, 2015, Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)

 Readings

Acts 9:26-31; Psalms 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32; First John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

Lesson 1: GOSPEL=Jesus Transforms Us from the Inside Out (expositional homily in four parts)

History’s greatest leaders influence people from the outside in.

With their speech, their ideas, their example, and even their presence they move and motivate those around them, drawing others and stirring them to action.

Jesus Christ, however, goes much deeper, influencing us also from the inside out.

  • He not only calls us from the outside, through the voice of the Church, the actions of Providence, and the example of his faithful disciples.
  • But he also unites himself to us so intimately that his very life flows through our veins.
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches,” he explains in today’s Gospel.
  • Where does a vine stop and its branches begin?
  • Their union is too complete to tell.
  • The same sap gives life to the vine and to its branches.
  • Just so, grace is God’s own divine life flowing through Christ and into us.
  • In this way, as in so many other ways, Jesus Christ stands alone among great historical figures.
  • Not only does he excel all others in their own game, but he plays in an entirely different league; he is a leader, but he is also the Lord.

How grateful we should be that he has seen fit to make us branches of his vine!

And yet, as human beings we are a unique kind of branch.

  • We are responsible for keeping ourselves united to the vine.
  • And if we don’t, Jesus makes it perfectly clear that we will not bear fruit; we willwither, die, and be burned.

So the question arises, how do we stay united to the vine, so that we can bear fruit and share in eternal life?

In this passage, Jesus points out four ways to do just that.

[Note: You may want to focus on just two or three of these, maybe even developing them further with examples from your own life. Each of the following parts includes a quotation from a saint, most of which are taken from Fr Joseph Esper’s “Saintly Solutions”.]

Illustrations= Part I: Growing in Prayer (with quotation from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

First, staying united to the vine means constantly growing in our life of prayer.

  • Prayer is how we expose our souls to the divine sunlight.
  • Just as plants need exposure to sunlight for energy, so we need to expose ourselves to God’s truth and love through reading and reflecting on the sacred scriptures, and through conversing with him in the quiet of our hearts.
  • And so, if our prayer life is the same when we are fifty as it was when we were fifteen, it could be a sign that we are stunting our spiritual growth.

For Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, listening to God in prayer was the very first link in the sacred chain of interior peace.

  • Here’s how she put it:

The fruit of silence is prayer; 
the fruit of prayer is faith;
the fruit of faith is love;
the fruit of love is service;
the fruit of service is peace…

Illustration: Part II: Utilizing the Sacraments (with quotation from St Gaudentius of Brescia)

Second, “remaining in Christ” means making good use of the sacraments, most especially the sacraments of the Eucharist and confession.

  • If a branch gets damaged in a wind storm, the gardener knows how to tie it up properly so that it will once again attach itself firmly to the trunk.
  • He binds it or grafts it back on to the vine.
  • That’s what happens with confession: Jesus renews the connection with him that our sin has damaged or broken.
  • All the saints and popes recommend that we use this great gift regularly andfrequently.

And in the Eucharist, our union with Christ is strengthened more powerfully than at any other time – we receive an influx of grace like no other, because he is truly presentthere under the appearances of bread and wine.

  • If prayer is sunlight, the Eucharist is a rain shower, refreshing and renewing our souls.
  • Every Holy Communion is like a spiritual springtime in which a new outpouring of divine life surges into our hearts and minds.

St Gaudentius of Brescia put it very clearly when he wrote:

“This is the food which sustains and nourishes us on our journey through life, until we depart from this world and are united with Christ.”

Illustration: Part III: Loving Obedience to God’s Will (with quotation from St Vincent de Paul)

Third, staying united to the vine requires loving obedience to God’s will.

  • This is what St John refers to in today’s Second Reading, when he writes: “Children, let us not love one another in word or in speech, but in deed and truth.”
  • It’s easy to say pretty words, to talk the talk of being a good Catholic.
  • But that talk has to translate into actions and the strength of virtues, into honesty, purity, faithfulness, courage, self-sacrifice, and obedience to Church teaching.
  • Otherwise, we are no better than actors on a stage, making a show out of lookinglike Christ’s followers, but not really following Christ.

This loving obedience to God our wise and all-powerful Father, in big things and littlethings, is the surest sign of humility, and humility the shortcut to holiness, wisdom, and lasting happiness.

  • As St Vincent de Paul put it:

“The most powerful weapon to conquer the Devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.”

Illustration: Part IV: Letting God Prune Us (with quotation from St Ignatius of Loyola)

Fourth, staying united to the vine means allowing God to prune us.

Jesus says that each healthy branch of the vine must be pruned “so that it bears more fruit.”

This pruning takes the form of suffering.

  • It may be painful, physical sufferings, like sickness, disease, financial insecurity, or old-age.
  • It may be hidden, interior sufferings, like losing a loved one or watching a dear relative abandon their Catholic faith.
  • Whenever God permits these kinds of sufferings – the ones that we don’t seem to have any control over – we have to let our faith remind us that they are under his control.
  • He is the vine-dresser.
  • He knows how much pruning we can handle (and the amount is different for each branch).
  • And he knows how to use that suffering to unite us more deeply with Christ, whosuffered on the cross to redeem the world.

In times of pain and hardship, God is begging us to trust in him more and more, to pray in the depths of our hearts that beautiful prayer that he himself taught us through his revelations to St Faustina of the Divine Mercy: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Accepting the Cross, not rebelling when God tries to prune us, is the secret of all the saints.

  • As St Ignatius of Loyola put it:

“If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that he has great designs for you, and that he certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat him to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the Cross, which Christ used for his own sacrifice of boundless charity.”

Conclusion: God Wants Us to Bear Fruit

Prayer, the sacraments, loving obedience, and suffering in union with Christ are what keep the Christian sap flowing in our lives.

They yield the fruit we yearn for most:

  • a life that resounds with meaning and energy,
  • a life that positively impacts others and exudes joy and enthusiasm,
  • a life that changes this world for the better in as profound a way as Christ’s own life did,
  • and a life whose meaning and impact overflow into eternity.

This is what God wants for us; this is why Jesus came to earth: “By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Bearing such fruit makes life worth living; without it we are drydead branches good for nothing except the fire.

As we continue with this Mass, let’s thank God from the depths of our hearts for uniting us to the vine of Christ.

And when we receive our Lord in Holy Communion, let’s promise him that this weekwe will make a decent effort to do our part to protect and strengthen that union.

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Lesson: FIRST READING= Transformation in Christ Takes Time

All of us are here today because we love Jesus Christ and we want to follow him more and more closely.

  • In other words, there is still a gap between the kind of Catholic we would like to be, and the kind of Catholic we actually are.
  • We know that a follower of Christ should be patient, self-controlled, faithful, generous, and kind.
  • And we also know that although we follow that recipe sometimes, many other times we don’t.
  • In the face of this contrast between the desire of our hearts and the reality of our daily lives, we can be tempted to frustration.

But today the Church is giving us an antidote to that frustration in the example of St Paul.

In today’s First Reading, St Paul shows up in Jerusalem three years after his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.

He has been believing in and following Christ for three years already.

And yet, he arrives in Jerusalem, and what happens?

  • His bold and abrasive personality gets him in trouble right away.
  • He shows up full of faith and love for Christ, overflowing with zeal and sincerity.
  • But his old violent and intimidating temperament hasn’t gone away.
  • In a matter of days, he instills deep fear in the Christians, and he infuriates the Jews so much that they start plotting to kill him!
  • Things are so bad, in fact, that he has to be sent away to Tarsus, his home town,500 miles away!
  • And notice what happens as soon as he’s gone; St Luke writes: “The Church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.”

The great St Paul didn’t become a saint overnight – it took time for God’s grace totransform him, and it takes time for God’s grace to transform us too.

Illustration: Rocks and Rivers

Relevant Radio is a Catholic radio network with stations across the United States.

Every weekday afternoon they have a two-hour program during which listeners can email or call in and have their questions about the spiritual life answered by a priest who is an experienced spiritual director.

A few weeks ago (April, 2009), a women sent an email in which she shared an experience instead of asking a question.

  • She explained that about 18 months earlier, she had attended a parish renewal.
  • One of the evenings the topic was forgiveness.
  • At the beginning of this evening, each person attending was given a beautiful rock.
  • At the end of the evening, everyone had a chance to walk up to the front of the church and place their rock in a basket.
  • It was a way to signify that they were forgiving everything and everyone that had negatively affected their life.
  • Well, this woman couldn’t do that that evening.
  • Instead, she kept that rock in her desk drawer at work, every day, for the next year and a half.
  • She was struggling to forgive herself for one of her past sins.
  • She had gone to confession and spoken to her priest, but she just kept beating herself up.
  • She couldn’t understand how she could have committed this sin.
  • She kept wondering how God could really forgive her.
  • Through all these months she kept praying and praying and trying to trust God.
  • Finally, one Friday afternoon she was sitting at her desk praying yet again, when a voice in her head said “go to confession again tomorrow.”
  • So she did: she poured everything out, received some comforting words from the priest, and for some inexplicable reason emerged from the confessional feeling like a new person.
  • The moment of grace had arrived.
  • She got in her car, drove to the nearby beautiful riverfront, took that rock out of her purse, and threw it as far as she could into the river.
  • Finally, after 18 months of spiritual battle, she had received the grace to let go of her guilt and fully accept God’s mercy and forgiveness

Transformation in Christ takes time.

Illustration: Fast Food vs Sistine Ceiling

This truth is very difficult for us to accept.

In the modern world, we are trained to have a “right now” mentality:

  • fast food,
  • around-the-clock help-desks,
  • overnight delivery,
  • Internet shopping,
  • 24-hour gas stations…
  • we have a mental and emotional habit of expecting results “right now.”

But Jesus taught us so often that the Kingdom of God, our transformation in Christ, is like

  • mustard seed, that takes time to grow,
  • farmer’s field, that only gradually produces its crop,
  • diligent merchant, who spends years and years searching for the pearl of great price.

Michelangelo worked full-time for four years painting the Sistine Ceiling.

And the whole time he was working, Pope Julius II was pressuring him to finish, to work faster and faster.

But Michelangelo, though he worked long and hard hours, even painting by lantern-light late into the night, lying on his back on top of rickety scaffolding,

  • refused to rush his masterpiece;
  • he refused to compromise the quality of his work;
  • he explained to the pope that if he wanted excellence, it would take time.

From the pope’s perspective, four years seemed too long to wait.

But it was nothing compared to the 500 years that have passed by since, during which the incomparable masterpiece has inspired literally millions of men and women from every corner of the world.

God is like that with us.

  • He is the great artist of our souls.
  • He refuses to compromise the quality of his work in our lives.
  • To us it seems like he is taking a long time, and we argue with him.

But he knows what he’s doing, and when we see his masterpieces (our souls) in the light of eternity, we will not be disappointed.

Illustration: Fast Food vs Motherhood (linked to Mother’s Day)

This truth is very difficult for us to accept.

In the modern world, we are trained to have a “right now” mentality:

  • fast food,
  • around-the-clock help-desks,
  • overnight delivery,
  • Internet shopping,
  • 24-hour gas stations…
  • we have a mental and emotional habit of expecting results “right now.”

But Jesus taught us so often that the Kingdom of God, our transformation in Christ, is like

  • mustard seed, that takes time to grow,
  • farmer’s field, that only gradually produces its crop,
  • diligent merchant, who spends years and years searching for the pearl of great price.

How can we overcome our modern, right-now mentality so as to let God work in our lives at his own, wise pace?

We have to look to our mothers.

Motherhood is a school of wisdom.

  • For nine months a mother bears her child, who grows slowly, but surely and steadily, in her womb.
  • She knows that she cannot rush the process; she must be patient, both before and after the child’s birth.
  • And so each day becomes a precious opportunity to love, to hope, to wait, and to trust in the mysterious designs of God.
  • This is the experience of every mother, and most especially of the Mother of God, Mary.
  • On this Mother’s Day, we should thank our mothers for their hidden sacrifices, their constant love, and their invaluable generosity.
  • And we should do so even more in this day and age when mothers are under attack by a culture that undervalues motherhood.

But we should not only thank them, we should also learn from them.

If motherhood is a school of wisdom, then by God’s providence we each have a lot to learn from our mothers (including the Blessed Virgin Mary).

And there is no better way to show our gratitude to them than by being good students ourselves.

Application: Doing Our Part though Loving Obedience to God’s Will (linked to Second Reading)

We are all like St Paul, full of rough edges that God is gradually polishing down.

If we become impatient, we will only get in his way, and we may even give up on himaltogether.

But being patient doesn’t mean we just sit around and twiddle our thumbs.

Jesus makes it clear in today’s Gospel that we have to do our part in order for our lives to bear the fruit he wants them to bear.

And one key way to do that is through loving obedience to God’s will.

  • This is what St John refers to in today’s Second Reading, when he writes: “Children, let us not love one another in word or in speech, but in deed and truth.”
  • It’s easy to say pretty words, to talk the talk of being a good Catholic.
  • But that talk has to translate into actions and the strength of virtues, into honesty, purity, faithfulness, courage, self-sacrifice, and obedience to Church teaching.
  • Otherwise, we are no better than actors on a stage, making a show out of lookinglike Christ’s followers, but not really following Christ.

This loving obedience to God our wise and all-powerful Father, in big things and littlethings, is the surest sign of humility, and humility is the shortcut to holiness, wisdom, and lasting happiness.

  • As St Vincent de Paul put it:
  • “The most powerful weapon to conquer the Devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.”
  • This is because humility gives God’s transforming grace room to work within us, just as a child who obeys his parents allows their wisdom to shape his life for the good.

During this Mass, through the sacrifice of the Eucharist, Jesus will renew his commitment to transform our lives, as he transformed St Paul’s.

When he does, let’s renew our commitment to let him transform us, patiently following his guidance, wherever it may lead.

Application: Doing Our Part through Daily Prayer (linked to Gospel)

We are all like St Paul, full of rough edges that God is gradually polishing down.

If we become impatient, we will only get in his way, and we may even give up on himaltogether.

But being patient doesn’t mean we just sit around and twiddle our thumbs.

Jesus makes it clear in today’s Gospel that we have to do our part in order for our lives to bear the fruit he wants them to bear.

And one key way to do that is prayer.

  • Prayer is a great privilege.
  • The Lord of the universe, our Creator and Redeemer, is online 24/7, always watching over us and listening for when we call out to him.
  • Whenever we send him a message, he reads it right away and answers by sending an attachment of grace into our hearts.
  • Daily, personal prayer is the bridge that turns our Catholic talk into a powerful Catholic walk.
  • Daily, personal prayer is the heart of our relationship with Christ, a bridge that links our knowledge of Jesus with our day-to-day actions.
  • Jesus passionately wants us to become mature men and women of prayer.
  • This is really what he means when he says in today’s Gospel: “I am the vine and you are the branches… Remain in me… because without me you can donothing.”
  • [Here you may want to recommend parish activities or resources that can help people with their prayer life.]

Today, let’s ask ourselves what we can do to improve our prayer life this week:

  • Maybe it’s taking a few minutes to pray a decade or two of the Rosary while we’re driving to work.
  • Maybe it’s getting up ten minutes earlier so as to be able to spend some quiet time alone with God before the hustle and bustle sweeps us away.
  • [You may want to add other suggestions, adapted to your congregation’s most common life situations.]

During this Mass, through the sacrifice of the Eucharist, Jesus, the vine, will renew his commitment to transform our lives, as he transformed St Paul’s.

When he does, let’s renew our commitment to be faithful branches, by making prayer a real priority.

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Lesson 3: SECOND READINGS= Christ’s Followers Have to Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk

Our Catholic faith is not a comfortable faith.

  • It does not say to us: “Hey, you’re OK, don’t worry about how you live your life; just enjoy yourself.”
  • That message comes from popular culture, not from Jesus Christ.
  • It is a comfortable message, but it is false.
  • You see, comfortable is not always good.
  • The comfortable thing to do when the Titanic hit the iceberg was to roll over andgo back to sleep, or just to keep on dancing.
  • It was uncomfortable to get out the lifeboats, help load them, and evacuate the ship.
  • And yet, the uncomfortable thing was the better thing; it was the right thing.
  • Jesus loves us too much to wink at us and let us waltz away our lives in superficiality, meaninglessness, self-indulgence, and comfortable immorality.

And so, he makes it clear that we who claim to be his followers have to do two things.

We must talk the talk, but we also must walk the walk.

We must look like good Catholics – by praying, coming to Mass, being involved in our faith, and speaking up for Christ’s truth.

But we also must make a daily effort to live like good Catholics:

  • to study Church teaching when we don’t understand it,
  • to go out of our way to help others,
  • to resist temptation and carry our crosses with elegance,
  • to be faithful to Catholic morality and to our life-mission, even if it means enduring discomforts like hardship, ridicule, and persecution.

This is what today’s Second Reading means when it says:

“Children, let us love one another not in word or speech, but in deed and truth… [W]e should believe in… Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.”

Christ’s followers are called to talk the talk, and also to walk the walk.

Illustration: A Living Sacrament

We find a beautiful and powerful representation of this truth in the sacraments.

Every sacrament has two parts, like two sides to a coin.

The first part is known as the matter, or the material.

  • In baptism, for example, the matter is water, sprinkled, poured, or flowing.
  • For the Eucharist, the matter is unleavened bread and simple wine.

The second part of the sacrament is known as the form.

This is the words that indicate what the material is being used for, and when the words are pronounced over the material, grace is truly given.

So, for example, when the priest says,

  • “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit,”
  • the water becomes the sanctified vehicle by which the baptized person iscleansed not just physically, but spiritually, from original sin, and really givennew birth in Christ.

And during Mass when the priest says the words of consecration over the bread and wine

  • (“this is my body which will be given up for you” and “this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant”),
  • then the substance of the bread and wine change (this is called “transubstantiation”),
  • and Jesus becomes truly present under their appearances,
  • in order to nourish us – not just symbolically, but really – with his very own divine life.

If you have the matter without the form or the form without the matter, nothing happens.

Only together do they make the sacrament, the sacred sign, given by Christ, to grant us grace.

As Christians, we are called to be like living sacraments in the world, acting like followers of Christ on the outside, but also truly striving to follow him in our hearts, even when no one else is looking.

Illustration: St Marcellus Just Says No

We find a beautiful and powerful representation of this truth in the life of St Marcellus[mahr-CHEHL-uhs], the martyr.

  • Marcellus was a centurion (an “officer”) in the Imperial Army of ancient Rome during the second half of the third century.
  • He embraced the Catholic faith during one of the calms between the storms of Roman persecution.
  • As he began to live out his faith in his daily life, he started noticing things that he hadn’t noticed before.
  • He began to see clearly the decadence of the “normal” activities encouraged by pagan Roman culture – the various forms of self-indulgence, lust, violence, and gluttony that life in the Imperial army tended to encourage.
  • It began to bother his conscience.
  • How could he follow Christ faithfully if he continued following the pagan practices all around him?
  • His crisis reached a climax during a huge feast that was being held in honor of the emperor’s birthday.
  • Attendance was required for the officers, but he became so disgusted at the gross excesses that he publicly renounced his allegiance to the emperor and his army, throwing to the ground the insignia of his rank and walking out.
  • Of course, abandoning one’s military allegiance was a capital crime, so his soldiers brought him before the officials and accused him.
  • The saint explained his actions by saying:
  • “I serve Jesus Christ the eternal king. I will no longer serve your emperors, and Iscorn to worship your gods of wood and stone, which are deaf and dumb idols.”

He had concluded that the requirements of his pagan duties were incompatible with the demands of Christian living.

He stopped just talking the talk, and started walking the walk as well.

He was put on trial for treason, refused to worship the pagan gods, and was executedas a martyr.

Application: “Remaining in Jesus” through Daily Prayer (linked to Gospel)

Jesus is like a good coach: he never lets us get comfortable, because he knows we are still capable of improving as human beings and as Catholics.

He loves us too much to let us rest on our laurels.

And yet, he also knows that constant growth in the Christian virtues is hard work.

And so he gives us a secret ingredient to insure that we never run out of spiritual gas:prayer.

  • Prayer is a great privilege.
  • The Lord of the universe, our Creator and Redeemer, is online 24/7, always watching over us and listening for when we call out to him.
  • Whenever we send him a message, he reads it right away and answers by sending an attachment of grace into our hearts.
  • Daily, personal prayer is the bridge that turns our Catholic talk into a powerful Catholic walk.
  • Daily, personal prayer is the heart of our relationship with Christ, a bridge that links our knowledge of Jesus with our day-to-day actions.
  • Jesus passionately wants us to become mature men and women of prayer.
  • This is what he means when he says in today’s Gospel: “I am the vine and you are the branches… Remain in me… because without me you can do nothing.”
  • [Here you may want to recommend parish activities or resources that can help people with their prayer life.]

Today, let’s ask ourselves what we can do to improve our prayer life this week:

  • Maybe it’s taking a few minutes to pray a decade or two of the Rosary while we’re driving to work,
  • Maybe it’s getting up ten minutes earlier so as to be able to spend some quiet time alone with God before the hustle and bustle sweeps us away.
  • [You may want to add other suggestions, adapted to your congregation’s most common life situations.]

During this Mass, Jesus, the vine, will renew his commitment to us in the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

When he does, let’s renew our commitment to be faithful branches, by making prayer a real priority.

Application: Obeying the Eighth Commandment

One area of life where it is hard to walk the walk is covered by the eighth commandment: “thou shalt not bear false witness.”

  • This commandment refers in the first place to truthfulness.
  • When we use the gift of language to deceive other people, we put ourselves onthe Devil’s team: he deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and his lieopened the door to evil and suffering in the world.
  • It is hard enough for us to avoid lying, to be committed to telling the truth when duty demands that we speak.
  • But the commandment also includes other, even more uncomfortable behaviors.
  • It forbids gossip and tale-bearing – in other words, talking behind peoples’ backs, or listening while others do so.
  • It forbids detraction or defamation – in other words, spreading news about other people’s faults, sins, or failures, or listening while others do so.

Imagine how different our popular culture would be if even just half of our journalists followed the eighth commandment.

Imagine how different our work places and family gatherings would be if we didn’t have to worry about what people were saying behind our backs.

Words are powerful things.

  • They can build up community, when we use them to speak well of others and to communicate truthfully and positively.
  • Or they can destroy reputations, tear apart families, and even start wars.
  • As followers of Christ, we should strive to be shining examples in this area, using words as Jesus would have us, to spread light and not darkness, to build bridgesand not walls.

In a few moments Jesus will renew his commitment to us in the sacrifice of this Holy Mass.

When he does, let’s ask him to help us walk the Catholic walk this week, so that we can experience the joy of being mirrors of God’s goodness in this confused and darkened world.

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This week’s Preaching Tip

Be a Pro

Bishop Ken Untener has some encouraging, if a bit surprising, advice for every homilist:

  • Cultivate a professional attitude – that of a scholar, writer, artist, and spiritual leader.
  • Too often, we sell ourselves short: “What, me a scholar, professional writer, artist, spiritual leader?”
  • Well, we are, and we ought to live up to it in our homilies.
  • Don’t settle for high mediocrity.
  • At some point in our development as a homilist, we need to turn a corner and have the expectation that every homily we prepare will be first rate.
  • Too often we approach a homily with the unconscious objective: What can I put together that will get me through this? We need to raise our sights.

Bishop Ken Untener, Preaching Better, p35.

epriest.com/homily_packs/build/130

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B)

Acts 9:26-31; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8

“I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower. If any of my branches doesn’t bear fruit, he breaks it off; and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit” (Jn 15:1-2).

In today’s gospel, Jesus uses the familiar image of the vine and the branches to teach us lessons about our Christian life. First of all, the image reminds us that God is the real owner of everything that we have and are. He is the vinegrower. He does to us what he thinks is good and right. As disciples, we need to live our life as if we don’t own anything. We belong fully to God. We should not allow our selfishness and pride to make us think that we have absolute control over our lives. Rather, we always have to be open to God’s action, confident that he knows fully what is good for us.

Second, the image teaches us that Jesus is the source of our life and the point which connects us with one another. He is the vine and we are the branches. A branch cut off from the vine will wither and die. And so it is with our life as disciples – we live fully and become fruitful only by remaining in Christ. In the gospel of John, the word “abide” appears at least thirty-seven times: “Abiding in God”, “abiding in Christ”, and “abiding in his Word”. We need to remain in Christ because apart from him, we can do nothing.

And finally, the image tells us that in order to stay healthy and fruitful we need pruning. Vinegrowers know that the act of pruning is good to the branch. If the branch is not pruned for a long time, it becomes wild and produces no good grapes. Sometimes in our lives, God intervenes with the cross in order to challenge and make us grow. To take away our pride, sometimes God allows us to fail. To make us grow stronger in faith, sometimes God sends us trials and difficulties. Posted by Abet Uy

abetuy.blogspot.com/2015/05/5th-sunday-of-easter-year-b.html

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5th SUNDAY OF EASTER: UNITY AND INTIMACY

Jn 15:1-8

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 her 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.

msp.org.ph/homilies.do?id=20268

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Moments

Stay

Fr. Jerry M. Orbos SVD

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:44 AM | Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

The story is told about a priest who accompanied a condemned convict to the electric chair. At a loss on what to say before leaving, he ended up uttering an awkward “More power to you!” Whereupon the convict told him: “My last request, Father, is that you remain. Hold my hand and stay with me.”

* * *

In today’s gospel (Jn. 15, 1-8), Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. He further tells us that if we are to bear fruit, we must remain in Him. We cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Him. “Without Me, you can do nothing.” Let us ask ourselves today: Am I united and connected with the Lord? Am I drawing power from Him? Am I bearing fruits because of Him, or just because of me?

* * *

Because we prayed, because we pleaded, because we believed and remained in the Lord, condemned Filipino Mary Jane Veloso was not executed in Indonesia last April 29. There were a lot of factors, and a lot of credit-grabbing as well, but we believe that the last-minute miracle happened because of the power of prayer and the power of God. Yes, miracles will happen if we remain in Him.

* * *

As of this writing, we do not yet know how the Pacman-Mayweather “Fight of the Century” will turn out. Win or lose, however, I believe that Manny Pacquiao is already a winner—for telling the whole world that there is a God, and for reminding people who have forgotten that God’s power, presence and love are real. My hat’s off to you, Manny, for pointing, not to yourself, but to Someone above, and for acknowledging to the whole world the power of His love.

* * *

But it is not enough that we remain in God’s love. We must remain in His love even if we are pruned, and especially when we are pruned. It is precisely at such times that we must hold on to Him, so that we can be strong. If you are going through a pruning at this point of your life, just listen to the Lord telling you: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46, 10).

* * *

How consoling to hear from Jesus that our being pruned will result in our bearing much fruit! Our sufferings and pains are not meaningless. They make us better and stronger persons. Yes, a person who has not gone through any trial or pain will lead an empty and vain life. Let this, too, be a warning: Those who cause the suffering, pain and persecution of other people will be answerable for their greed and misdeeds not only in this life but also in the next.

* * *

We learn from the great saints of our time, like Padre Pio and Mother Teresa, to persevere and remain in God’s love no matter the circumstances. St. Padre Pio’s prayer, “Stay with Me,” brings out his deep faith in God in spite of his trials and “the dark night of the soul” that he had to endure for many years. Mother Teresa also remained in the Lord even if she was devoid of spiritual consolation during the last years of her life. May we, too, at the end of our lives, be able to say to God when we finally meet: “Lord, I remained in Your love no matter what.”

* * *

Sr. Adolfine Tonnies, the cofounder and first superior general of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (Pink Sisters), is now a candidate for beatification. She received the religious name, Mary Michael, from our founder, St. Arnold Janssen, SVD. She remained in the Lord in the cloister, but she also founded new adoration convents in Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, China and the Philippines. Today there are about 350 Adoration Sisters, living in 22 convents in various parts of the world, constantly in adoration and remaining with our Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

* * *

On a personal note, I would like to acknowledge the former governor of Pangasinan, Rafael Colet, who celebrated his 80th birthday last April 20. Manong Raffy has remained in the Lord through the years, as a loving husband to Manang Charito Zumel, as a father and grandfather, and as a public servant who tried his very best to carry out his mission, for the Lord and for the Blessed Mother. A man of principles, a man with a heart for people, a man of deep faith, a man who remains with the Lord—that’s Manong Raffy.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to remain in You and to stay with You no matter what. Amen.

opinion.inquirer.net/84611/stay

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MAMUNGA PARA KAY KRISTO : Reflection for 5th Sunday of Easter Year B – May 3, 2015 – YEAR OF THE POOR

“Isang bayan para kay Pacman!”  Ito ang maririnig mo ngayon sa bibig ng mga Pilipino.  Muli ang bayang Pilipino ay pinagbuklod ng ating “Pambansang Kamao”.   Manalo man o matalo, nakamit na nito ang kanyang layuning pagbuklurin ang bansang Pilipino.  Katulad din ng ating pagiging Kristiyano na pinagbubuklod ng ating pananampalataya kay Kristo.  “Siya ang puno ng ubas at tayo ang mga sanga!”  Ano ba ang ibig sabihin ng “pinagbuklod ni Kristo?”  Maari bang mahiwalay ang isang Kristiyano sa Kanya?  May tatlong magkakaibigan na nagpapayabangan sa kanilang pananampalataya: isang Muslim, isang Hindu at isang Kristiyano. Nagpunta sila sa isang mataas na gusali at nagpasiklaban sa kanilang sinasambang “diyos.” “Sige, tatalon tayo sa gusali at hihingi tayo ng tulong sa ating diyos at ang makakaligtas ang siyang may pinakamakapangyarihang diyos!” Unang tumalon ang muslim. Sa kalagitnaan ng kanyang pagbulusok ay isinigaw niyang “Allah.. iligtas mo ako!” Lumagpak siya sa lupang bali-bali ang buto. Sumunod naman ang Buddhist. Nakapikit siyang nagmeditate at pagkatapos ay tumalon. Sa kaligitnaan ng kanyang pagbulusok ay sumigaw siya ng “Buddha iligtas mo ako!” At nang malapit na siyang lumagpak sa lupa ay parang himalang dinala siya ng hangin na animo’y bulak at dahan-dahang bumaba sa lupa. At sa kahuli-hulihan ay tumayo ang Kristiyano. Nagtanda ng krus at sabay talon. Sa kalagitnaan ng pagbulusok ay sumigaw siya ng “Hesus, Anak ni David, iligtas mo ako!” Aba… lalo pang bumilis ang kanyang pagbulusok! (9.8 m/sec2) Nang malapit na syang lumagpak ay biglang sigaw ng: “Buddha… Buddha… tuloooong!!!” Tayong mga Katoliko nga naman, madaling kumalas sa ating pananampalataya kapag nahaharap sa kagipitan. Ano nga ba ang nagbibigay ng kasiguruhan sa ating pananampalataya? Sa ating Ebanghelyo ngayon ay gumamit ang Panginoong Jesus ng isang paglalarawan: ang sangang nakakabit sa puno! Ang sanga ay mabubuhay lamang kung ito ay nakakabit sa puno.  Ang ating pananamapalatayang Kristiyano ay mananatili kung ito ay nakaugnay kay Kristo!  Noong tayo ay bininyagan ay tinanggap natin ang pananampalatayang ito. Iniugnay tayo kay Jesus. Sa katunayan ay tinaglay natin ang Kanyang pangalan… KRISTIYANO! Ngunit hindi lang sapat na nakakabit sa puno. Dapat din ay namumunga ang sangang ito! Ang ating pagiging Kristiyano ay hindi lamang “baptismal certificate.” Ito ay ang matapat na pagsasabuhay ng ating sinasampalatayanan sa pamamagitan sa pagsunod sa utos at kalooban ng Diyos. Sa panahon ngayon na nababalot ng materyalismo, komersiyalismo at hedonismo ay hinahamon tayong mamunga bilang mga Kristiyano. Hindi madali sapagkat ang pinaiiral ng mundo ay kasarapan at kaginhawaan ng pamumuhay. Ayaw ng mundo na kahirapan. Ngunit kailangan ang pagtitiis kung nais nating mamunga. Sabi ng Panginoon: “Pinuputulan at nililinis ang bawat sangang namumunga.” Tanggapin natin ang kahirapan ng buhay bilang pagpuputol at paglilinis ng Diyos sa atin. Kapalit ng pagtitiis na ito ay ang masaganang bunga naman para sa ating may pananampalataya. Manatili tayo kay Jesus. Mamunga tayo ng sagana sa pamamagitan ng mabuting gawa. Ito ang ang tanging paraan upang tayo ay maging mga “buhay na Kristiyano” na may kaugnayan kay Kristo!  Sa unang pagbasa ay ipinakita sa atin kung paanong ang “paglilinis” kay Pablo ay naging daan upang siya ay “mamunga” at magdala ng maraming tagasunod ni Jesus.  Ang kanyang pagkakamali sa nakaraan ay hindi naging hadlang  upang maging isa siyang masigasig na apostol ng Panginoon.  Kaya nga’t ang mamunga para kay Kristo ay pagtawag sa ating lahat na taglay ang pangalang KRISTIYANO.

Ipinaskil ni kalakbay ng kabataan

kiliti-ng-diyos.blogspot.com/2015/05/mamunga-para-kay-kristo-reflection-for.html

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See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B

Back to: Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

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One Response to Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

  1. Fr. Bosco perianayagam SDB says:

    I found it very useful and meaningful.

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