Today we are in for a spiritual check-up. We are to see if we are anchored in reality or if we are absorbed and taken by things of this world that will never be able to fill our spiritual void and make us bearers of good fruits.
The only reality in which we should be anchored, or rather, rooted, should be Jesus. He is the True Vine, and we are its branches. The first thing we ought to believe firmly is that he is the True Vine. There are many vines out there that claim to be genuine sources of meaning, fulfillment, happiness, freedom, etc. Yet, only the one pruned and taken care of by the Father is the True Vine.
Furthermore, only the one that has “the sap” of the Holy Spirit (Grace) running through it is the True Vine. Consequently, only this True Vine enables its branches to bear much fruit. Wisely, this is the vine to which we are to remain attached.
“Remain in me, as I remain in you.” A clarification is due at this point. The verb remain in the gospel of John is laden with significance. In modern terms it would refer to having the same DNA. Any organ transplant faces the risk of rejection and/or complications. Our body doesn’t reject any of its organs because they all share the same nature, the same origin, the same DNA.
As we apply this concept to Christ as the Vine and to us as the branches, we realize right away that the command “remain in me as I remain in you” is a matter of life and death: eternal life or eternal death.
For some however, to remain attached to or to be severed from the True Vine is de facto optional; it is no big deal. In reality, it would be spiritually suicidal to choose to be branches of any other tree.
We cannot be branches of Christ’s vine just for an hour on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning and, then, revert to be branches belonging to a different tree intended to bear different fruits or no fruits at all.
In other words, we cannot give ourselves to any other ideology, group or company during the week, if this ideology, group or company is not compatible with Christ, his Gospel and his Church. Every thought, every aspiration, every plan, dream, idea, action, word, decision, choice we make, at any time, anywhere, anyhow has to reflect our basic decision of being and wanting to remain in Christ.
Alas, many Catholics by their choices, political choices included, have decided to belong to different trees. They fool themselves into thinking that it is OK to be Catholic for an hour a week in church and, then, to become “open-minded” people of this world, embracing or approving of tenets that are trendy but totally incompatible with their Catholic DNA.
For example, they do not see the conflict of going against natural law by being in favor of same sex marriage, thus disregarding not only human history from time unmemorable, but also the basic right of all children to have a mother and a father. They live with the mirage that the teachings of the Gospel entrusted by Christ to the teaching authority of the Church can change with time. Hence, they wait for the Church to catch up with the rest of the world by allowing the culture of death to prevail.
(Culture of death is a term introduced by St. John Paul II to refer to artificial contraception, abortion (both chemical and surgical), euthanasia, and anything else that fails to respect human life from conception to natural death.)
Here is another example: These pseudo Catholics grafted to the trees of death of this world do not have any problem with the Health and Human Services mandate that forces some loyal Catholics to trample upon their conscience or face crippling consequences.
My dear friends in Christ, my dear fellow branches of the divine Vine that is the Lord Jesus: there is no other way for us to remain alive than by remaining always, around the clock, attached to Christ.
Hence, my dear friends in Christ, my dear fellow branches of the divine Vine who is the Lord Jesus: there is only one way for us to draw life from Christ and that is by remaining always, around the clock, attached to the Catholic Church. And this concept is truly elementary: the Catholic Church and Christ are, and will forever be, one and the same Vine. And this elementary concept holds true also about bearing good fruit according to our DNA. Christ is brutally clear: “Without me you can do nothing.”
So, all the stuff we might be proud of, the grandiose achievements, the accolades, the diplomas, the money, the home, anything and anyone in our life extolled and priced by the world is vapor, fumes, nothing, unless it is the result of our living in Christ. Jesus could not be any blunter!
Now, how do we keep ourselves rooted in Christ even when the going gets tough; when we are accused of being passé, obtuse, obsolete; and we experience serious difficulties, rejection, antagonism and even tragedies? Jesus says: “by virtue of the Word that I spoke to you.”
The Bible contains the most joyous, as well as the most harrowing, situations we can possibly experience in life and any situation in between. It also, and most importantly, contains what God has done to turn any situation into a source of life and meaning and joy.
Thus, every time we gather in church, every time we open the Bible, we meet Christ telling us: “I intend to do to you the very same thing described here. I see your pain, your disorientation, your fear. Do you trust me to DO this Word of mine in you now, in ‘my present moment?’”
It is Christ the Word that generates the Eucharist, and any of the other sacraments, the blessings, commandments of love and service, reassurance of comfort, of guidance, of light, of forgiveness, of healing as needed by us in all of life’s situations.
As I said, it is reality check time: it is meant to be the high time of our salvation. So, let us look at the grapes we have borne thus far. St. Paul has a clear list of the wild grapes of the flesh, of the world, i.e. produced by any other vine but Christ:
immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, (Galatians 5:19-22)
Today, the Lord God offers to do His Word in us: “Do you want your grapes to be the grapes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness?” He asks. As always, since we are called to respond in love to His love, we are and remain free.
O that today and always we may dare to answer: “Yes, Lord, I want to remain rooted in the true vine that is Christ. I want to bear only fruits of love.
And I pray that everyone may do the same.