Thursday, May 3, 2012

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower."

The Gospel for May 6, 2012 - the Fifth Sunday in Easter - has the familiar story about the vine and the branches. We are, of course the branches, and Jesus is the vine. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

“I am the vine, you are the branches”

In the Gospel text last week Jesus is quoted as saying: I am the Good Shepherd. In this week’s Gospel he says, "I am the true vine." He will always be there and will always bring us all the nourishment we need. As baptized Christians, Fr. Phil Bloom assures us, you and I have a bond with Jesus even more intimate than a mother and her tiny child. Like the mother who nourishes the unborn child with her own blood, Jesus sustains us.

However, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino cautions, it is not enough for us to say, “God loves me,” we have to be united to the vine for His Love to flow into us. We have to want to be related to God. And we must bear fruit. And what kind of fruit ought we to bear? Fr. Alex McAllister SDS says we must realize that the harvest is one of souls for heaven. Our task is in fact to continue the work of Christ in the world. In order to know what to do we must look at his life and imitate him as best we can.

Father Cusick tells us that we must seek the opportunity for daily participation in the liturgy. We must draw from the Eucharistic sacrifice the life-blood of Christ the vine that we may bear fruit that will last: heart, mind, soul and strength aflame with God's love unto life eternal!

Pruning the Vine

To prune a plant is to cut some of its branches off. Jesus mentions this twice in our Gospel reading. Speaking as the vine, He says that the Father “takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes, so that it bears more fruit.”

But Jesus does not tell us to grow fruit. He tells us that In five verses. Instead, Fr. James Gilhooley points, our Lord tells us eight times to abide in Him. That's the secret. And abiding in Jesus includes being part of the life of the Church, committed to the daily and weekly fellowship of his people, in mutual support, prayer, common worship, sacramental life, study and not least, work for the Gospel in the world.

So drink in your overflowing share of trust at Sunday’s table of the Lord. Let the Word instruct you, let the body and blood of Christ, which was pruned to almost nothing, fill you and shape you. Trust the steadiness of Jesus’ gardener hand, says Fr. John Foley, S.J., even while suffering. It is precisely during those times, Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains, that our souls are being shaped in ways we cannot understand but in ways that will stretch and widen them for a deeper love and happiness in the future.

"Without me you can do nothing."

Life in Christ is a gift freely given and, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. explains, a gift freely accepted. Tragically, because there is freedom, the life and love of Christ can be rejected. And that was the situation Stacy Trasancos found herself in a few years ago. Lost and broken, her first 42 years of life was full of self-induced pain. Today she knows deep joy and peace because she is accepting the abundances of Truth and Love. And she tells her story because as shameful as it is, it is real and needs to be told so others will know the dangers of life without a moral compass.

Jesus is the vine. And we are summoned to ‘abide,' to ‘live,' to make our home ‘in Him.' Just like Stacy and many others, He draws us into a relationship with Him that is as life-giving as the relationship between a vine and its branches. For when we are connected to Jesus through the sacraments and to humanity, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS assures us, we experience blessings beyond measure.

It is precisely in every Eucharistic celebration where we are drawn into that intimate fellowship both with Jesus himself and with each other at His table.

Catholic Social Awareness

May 1 was the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and it didn’t seem to get much attention. That struck Omar Gutierrez as odd in an election year so caught up with issues of the Catholic faith and Catholic social teaching. We remind ourselves that by means of hard labor in the shop, St. Joseph taught the young Jesus what it was to work by the sweat of the brow and so taught him the glorious and invigorating fruit of a work that made the Son of God even more human.

And it is this highlight on humanity that brings Catholic social teachings on Solidarity and Subsidiarity to the forefront during this pivotal election year. Cong. Paul Ryan, the House budget chairman, has put forward a plan that challenges the religious left. But what drives Mr. Ryan's religious critics bonkers is not his numbers. It's his claim that his policies reflect Catholic principles. At Georgetown he summarized one of the differences he has with the protesting professors this way: "I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government."

And speaking of Life issues, the dean of the Roman Rota, speaking at a conference in Rome, suggested the need for a more rigorous interpretation of a provision in canon law that is cited in many annulment cases. This is expected to impact American Catholics who lead the world in the number of Catholic annulments requested and granted.

Prayer, Faith & Being Good Without God

Anyone with a regular prayer life can attest to the great variation from one prayer time to the next. And while a simple study of Scripture may not be what we want, Andrew Sciba says it is what God wants for us, today. We should be happier to pray as we are led by the Holy Spirit than to pray as we want.

Bo Sanchez adds shock value. He says a spiritually mature person is equally at home in her prayer meeting and doing her laundry. She is spiritually at home attending Holy Mass and shopping in a mall. Why? Because if God is her home, and if God is everywhere, then she is at home everywhere.

While Fr. Dwight Longenecker shares a question that time and again the middle-aged Catholic mother will ask him, "I can't get my kids to go to Mass. Why don't they go to Mass anymore?" His answer shocks them: "Your kids don't go to Mass because they don't believe the Catholic faith." Mass attendance is down. Maybe that's because we don't realize the radical claims of Catholicism. So can we be good without God?

Confession, Justification & Conversion

In his ministry as a deacon today, Mike Bickerstaff still hear non-Catholics speak these words “Have you been saved?” and also of “justification” in connection to “being saved.” What does the Church teach about justification and salvation? What must I do to be saved? The good deacon offers "Seven Lessons Every Catholic Should Know About Justification." This is a must read for all Catholics.

And in discussing the Catholic faith with non-Catholics, the Sacrament of Reconciliation ranks right up there with Marian Dogmas among the Church’s teachings that prompt the most questionsh. He lists in this article the five most common Protestant objections to the doctrine and he shares with us the best way we can respond to each one.

Finally, Tyler Rosser shares the story of Chris, a young college student with a diamond stud in each of his ears, baggy plaid shorts, and a yellow t-shirt doing sweet tricks on his Razor scooter. Little did he know that six months later, Chris’ actions, as well as the actions of three of his teammates, would bring Tyler and his wife to joyful tears in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It's the story of how the sacraments changed four student-athletes.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: What are the four marks of the True Church?
FEATURED BLOG: Can You Be Good Without God?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Cristo la Vid Verdadera

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