Acts 9:26-31; Ps. 22; 1 Jn. 3:18:24; Jn. 15:1-8
(Audio recorded live, 2 May 2021)
Today, Jesus bids his disciples to remain in him. He says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Unless the Lord build the house, the builders labor in vein. This is true in every aspect of life. Unless we have a plan to follow, we are wandering aimless, and those who have leadership roles are tasked with coming up with a plan. But, how do they come up with it? There is only so far up the chain of command we can go on earth before we have to turn to God. How often do we consult God regarding our plans? What about those entrusted with leadership? Are they going to God, or do they have it all figured out? Are they carrying out their own agenda?
It would seem God has been very lenient with us. He gives us a share in His own freedom, but that freedom was not given as a license to do evil. No one has a license to kill. No one has a license to steal. No one has a license to harm. When a licentious person does any of these things, they are infringing upon the God-given freedoms of other people. When the exercise of human free will impinges upon the freedom of others, it is a form of subjugation. This is not what God intended by giving everyone the same unalienable freedom. Where might we see these offenses taking place today? Sadly, one does not have to look far.
Jesus, on the other hand, invites his disciples to remain in him, as a branch on the vine. St. John says, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.” Again, Jesus says, by their fruits will they be known. In other words, our actions speak louder than words, and our connection to Christ is more valuable than our obedience to any human being. It is Christ who brought order into this chaotic world, but as soon as the world forgets Christ, chaos begins to reassert itself.
To remain in Christ is to live according to his commandments, to embrace his teachings wholeheartedly, to love as he loved. For this Christ laid down his life for us, and through his sacrifice united us once again with the Father, the vine grower. Jesus has shown us the way to the Father, who makes the growth happen through the Spirit he gave us. The Spirit is with us always, most especially when we gather at Mass. In him we live and move and have our being.
And so, as we prepare to celebrate this great freedom, which comes to us only from God, may the communion we share be a sign of our remaining in Christ, like branches on the vine. And may the vine grower fill us with his Spirit that we may bear good fruit by keeping his commandments and remaining in his love.
Given during the COVID-19 pandemic.