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5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER: FROM BEING SPIRITUAL TO BEING FRUITFUL

The word “remain” appears several times in the readings of this weekend. It is a strong verb which also means abide, cling, dwell, endure, hold the fort, or keep on. Jesus is emphatic in the statement, “Remain in me.” Hence, he points us to the metaphor of the vine; “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.”  “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Christ explains the connection between the vine and spiritual fruitfulness as follows, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). The truth is obvious. Either you are in Christ to bear fruit or you get cut off from Christ and wither.


The Christian witnessing presents three dimensions of the faith relationship:

1.     Jesus’ relationship with the Father: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.

2.     Jesus’ relationship with his followers: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.

3.     Our relationship in Christ through the Holy Spirit: “We know that he remains in us from the Spirit he gave us” (1 Jn. 3:24).


In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah lamented the disappointment from the vineyard when the vineyard failed to yield the desired produce, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his cherished plant; He looked for judgment, but see bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry!” (Is. 5:1-7). This replicates Jesus’ warning in the gospel, “Cut off from me, you can do nothing.” The spiritual life must be rooted in Christ to bear fruit.


We might be familiar with expressions like these: “I used to be a practicing Catholic.” “I stopped attending Mass for quite some time now.” "My mom took us to church when we were little." “I haven’t been to confessions for over twenty years.” “I can only say I’m spiritual and not Christian.” How does one cope in such conditions? In most cases, there is a yearning to come back to the faith that is greeted with some restlessness, sometimes ignorance on how to get back on the faith track. Please, come back in and unite with Jesus. Every aspect of our lives desires to have God to be authentically alive. 


Once a time, I was helping to feed my little nephew who was about 4 years old at the time (now deceased). He was a very heavy eater. Having fed him the portion I thought was enough for him, I made an attempt to clear the table. I requested that he said “thank you” so we could conclude the meals and clean up. His face became gloomy and he looked at me with apparent dissatisfaction. My little friend shook his head, pointed to the plate and began to whine. Then he said to me, “Uncle, garri (food) remains…!” He repeated this for a few times and insisted I got back to feeding him. My little nephew was confident that the affirmation, “ food remains” would communicate his desire to get fed. He had to hold fort because food remains. He had to remain there because food still remained in the plate. He had to eat the food to remain happy, too.


Jesus invites us to remain in him, to cling to him, to dwell in him, to endure in him, to hold the fort with him in order to bear fruit. The vine grows branches, and the branches become part of the vine. The vine is sustained by food from the earth, so the branches are sustained by food from the vine itself. Christ is rooted in the Father (vine grower) and constantly reminds us that He and the Father are one. Christ gives us life through remaining in the Father. If we stay connected with Christ, then we also stay alive. Any branch that does not grow in the vine will not bear fruit, and will be cut out from the vine. 


For catholics, staying off the sacraments for a long time cuts the individual off the source. Imagine the guitar player to not play guitar for ten years. He will forget how to operate the strings. Imagine the mathematician to not use numbers for ten years. Statistics and calculations will become strange. Imagine the organist to stay off the board for ten years. Obviously, he will lose touch with the organ and the keys. Imagine the doctor to not practice for ten years. The outcome is definitely that returning to practice will compromise the life of the patients, etc. It is the same for someone who claims to be Christian without staying close with Jesus. It can be hard to imagine that a dropout-christian can be spiritually productive. The expression, “I used to attend Mass before” or “It’s been over ten years I have not been to confession” might be the reason for the dry spiritual life or aridity. You cut yourself off from Christ, then you cease being spiritually fruitful. It's like not playing the lottery but yet expecting to win a jackpot.


Perhaps, we can apply this to parenting, families, and relationships in our lives. How can we step down our spiritual life into a productive Christian life? Parents must be able to say like Christ to their children, “I am the vine and you are my branches. Cut off from me, you can do nothing.” It means that parents ought to maintain an intimate relationship with Christ. When parents feed from Christ, are nourished in the eucharist, they in turn nourish their children with the life of Christ. The same thing applies to teachers. Are you able to say to your students, “I am the vine and you are my branches?” The title of the game is, "Staying connected with Christ" with the challenge for all of us to reflect Jesus. Like my little nephew, we must be able to say, not necessarily that food remains, but that Jesus remains..


Jesus asks us to bear fruits for him, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love” (Jn. 15:9). Use this word “remain” to inspire your zeal for discipleship. Tell those around you to remain in God's love, to remain in Christ’s love. It pays off eternally. Certainly, we are extensions of God’s love - at work, at school, in business, at home, etc. Christ is the vine into whom and from whom we grow. Through prayers and the sacraments, as well as through the gospels, we stay bonded with Christ. By his grace, we are able to bear fruits.


Questions:

How fruitful and productive would you say you are in your faith? What does it mean that you boldly say to your subjects, “remain in my love?” How would you describe the impact of the sacraments in your spiritual growth?


Christ invites us to remain in him and not be thrown out like a branch and wither. We must not throw ourselves out either.

 

 Readings: 1st- Acts 9:26-31; 2nd- 1 Jn. 3:18-24; Gospel- Jn. 15:1-8

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