A HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – CYCLE “B” – 4/29/18 – SMG
+ Pax et Bonun! Peace and goodness to you this day!
Three days after I was born, my Father planted a sugar maple tree in our backyard, to commemorate my arrival on this earth. It was my tree. And every year, on my birthday, from my first birthday, to my nineteenth birthday, I had to have my picture taken with my tree. When I was really little, the tree was also pretty small, but it was always taller than I was. I was jealous. By my tenth birthday, it was a lot taller than I was. And it just kept growing. For my nineteenth birthday, I had just went away to college seminary. So we took the picture before I left for college. What I would not know, was that that would be the last picture that I would take with my tree. You see, just a couple of weeks before I left, the local power company had come out to our area to bury powerlines. When they did their work in our yard, and at our house, they buried our main power line dangerously close to my tree. In the digging to bury the powerline, they had damaged the root system of my tree. And so while everything looked fine with the tree from the ground up, the root system on one whole side of the tree, apparently was damaged by the digging for the powerline. A few weeks later, the tree, above the ground, began to show signs that it was dying. Without its root system, the tree couldn’t get needed water and nutrients from the ground. By the time that I came home for Thanksgiving break, the tree was dead, and had already been cut down.
And I remember being so surprised! The power company had not touched that tree above the ground. It was so hard to believe that there was so much damage underground, to the root system, that the tree couldn’t survive. In some ways, it was like losing a pet! But it became an important lesson to me, about how life has to stay connected to its source, if it is to keep growing, and living, and being. We know that this true of many living plants and trees and vines. You cut part of a tree or plant or vine off from its life source, especially nutrients and hydration, and it is not going to last very long, no matter how healthy the plant, or tree, or vine is, when you start out. Plants and trees have to stay connected to live.
Jesus uses a very similar image in our Gospel today when He is talking about Him being the vine, and all of us, being the branches. Jesus is right, when He says, that no branch is going to produce any fruit, if it is cut off from the vine. You don’t have to live in Napa, California to realize this! A branch, cut off from the vine, is called a dead stick. And there’s not going to be any fruit on a dead stick! It’s like my tree. My tree looked fine. It looked healthy. From above the ground, you had no idea that there was fatal damage done underneath the ground. But eventually, cut off from water, and the soil, and its nutrients, eventually the plant, or tree, or vine is going to die. If you’re not connected to what you need to be connect to, it will kill you.
This also holds true for our spiritual lives! There’s a reason why Jesus is using this story, this image, in the Gospel. Because cut off from God, the source of our entire spiritual life, we are not going to be able to make it, in the world that we live in today! We weren’t supposed to live in this world, cut off from God. It is not how we were designed and made!
We need God. And, we need God’s Church! There are many who don’t understand this today. They are trying to live their lives every day without any roots, without any connection to the source of all life, and completely separated from the vine and it has to offer us. In all honesty, and humility, today we need to admit that we cannot “do it all” by ourselves. We will never be as useful, or productive, or successful, as God wants us to be, when we are living cut off from Him. We are to accomplish all of our missions in this life in the power of Jesus Christ. And God has some amazing missions for us to under take!
So how do we stay connected? Well, prayer is the perfect place to start! Where do we get what we need to have Faith, and to Hope, and to be Loving? Prayer connects us and unites us to God. It plugs us in to the life of Grace! If we’re not praying, we are cutting ourselves off from God, Who wants to give us all that we need to have life, and have it abundantly.
We stay connected by imitating the Life of the Christ! Jesus taught us some remarkable things two-thousand years ago, simply by the way that He lived His life. Imitating Him, even in 2018, we stay connected to Him Who is our perfect role model for life in this world!
We stay connected by serving others and making others a priority. Anybody can live this life for themselves! Millions do it every day! But to get out of ourselves and serve others, to make others the priority, and not just ourselves, that the real secret to staying connected to God and living life as God intended.
And sometimes, staying connected to the vine involves crosses. Because the pruning that comes only from carrying a cross, keeps hanging on stronger than ever, to our vine, Jesus Christ! And sometimes it is just that simple, that we have to cling with all our might, to that vine, Who is our source of all life, both human and divine!
And the foretaste of that connection, that life, is the Eucharist that we are about to receive. Jesus the Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity is the vine that we cling to, as we pass through this life. He will give us all that we need. Let us truth Him. Let us cling to Him. Let us make sure that being connect to Him, we don’t become dead sticks!
+ God bless us today, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!