Ordinary Time – Trinity Sunday (Year B)

There’s a phrase that was quite common when I was attending catechism class as a child, and people in my generation or older will likely recall it (we don’t hear it much anymore –like the word ‘catechism class’ – and most younger people may not be familiar with it)

That phrase or description is ‘ a mystery of faith’. One of the more common things that would fall into that category was the nature of the very feast day we celebrate today, the Feast of The Most Holy Trinity. When we talk about the Most Holy Trinity, we are of course, referring to God; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We invoke the Holy Trinity every time we bless ourselves and make the sign of the Cross. We praise the Holy Trinity each time we say the prayer, Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…

When we baptize anyone and welcome them into the Church as adopted children of God, we use the formula given to us by Jesus Himself as quoted in the Gospel of St. Matthew, ‘baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

The Cathechism of the Catholic Church expresses “The Incarnation of God’s Son reveals that God is the eternal Father and that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, which means that, in the Father and with the Father, the Son is one and the same God… the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the name of the Son), reveals that, with them, the Spirit is one and the same God. “With the Father and the Son He is adored and glorified” (Nicene Creed).

But we sit and scratch our heads sometimes as we grapple with the idea that we worship one God, but a single God in whom there are Three persons; Father, Son and Spirit – the Most Holy Trinity. When we were children, or for many of us even later in life, when we asked, ‘how does that work- three persons in one God?” we usually received the response, ‘oh, that’s a mystery of faith’……somewhat similar to the answer a father gives a child who asks an uncomfortable question; ‘go ask your mother.’….that answer never satisfied.

In fact, those outside the Church, or those who refuse to be open to God, often use that response as their rationale for why they don’t believe in God. They see the response, a ‘mystery of faith’ as a’cop out’ – as if by calling something a ‘mystery of faith’ we are saying no only that ‘we don’t know’ something, but also that there is no answer.

But the Catechism of the Catholic Church is just as clear about what the nature of a ‘mystery of faith’ is, particularly when it applies to the Holy Trinity;”The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life. God alone can make it known to us by revealing Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

In other words, this great mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is something that only God can reveal to each and every one of us, and He reveals that to us when we open ourselves or prepare ourselves to receive that revelation.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, we have received , through baptism, a spirit of adoption. “When we cry ‘Abba, Father’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” If anyone can tell me that they fully comprehend, and have no sense of wonder, that each of us is a child of the Most High God, and have the potential for everything that really means, I would have to doubt their honesty. God is without limits – and as such, the mystery of God knows no limit.

We need to first understand that because we don’t fully comprehend a mystery does not mean there is no possibility of understanding anything about it. Quantum Physics is a complete mystery to me, but it is not completely unknowable, provided I am willing to take the time to read or study or speak to someone who might provide me with some basic understanding of its principles. And just because I have no understanding of it right now, does not mean that it’s principles don’t exist, or that I will never understand anything about them.

A mystery doesn’t mean we can’t understand anything; it means we can’t understand everything, and there is a world of difference between those two things.

Take for example, a major art gallery; there will be works of art in the main lobby, and a real student of art could spend all day simply studying those artworks; but when we enter the building and look past the lobby, we realize there are halls and corridors throughout the building and there are rooms off of all of those corridors, and there are pieces of art in each of those rooms; we cannot absorb all of the art in the building , simply from entering the lobby. And even if we could, there is more and more to each piece of art; a person could spend an entire lifetime studying one painting by one of the ‘masters’; they could even study and develop their own skills to the point where they might even be able to reproduce an exact copy of one of these paintings. But they will never completely understand the artist’s experience and know what was in their heart or going through their minds at the moment they touched brush to canvass simply because they are not the artist; their own experiences are as distinct as they are; they can come very close to understanding that one painting, but they will never completely understand it; they can know something – they just cannot know everything.

But in order to understand anything, we have to take that first step, like studying Quantum Physics, or examining those paintings; we need to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s action in revealing that understanding – that experience. The first way to do that, is to enter into prayer, to actually take the time to say to God, ‘ I desire to know You better Lord’. But we cannot expect to have all the answers immediately – because like the apostles, we cannot bear them yet. Just as we can’t expect to know everything there is to know about a new friend until we get to know them better by spending time with them and talking with them, we shouldn’t expect to know everything about God if we aren’t willing to spend ‘quality time’ with Him. And even in spending ‘quality time’ with God, we shouldn’t expect to be able to know ‘everything’ because, quite simply, we are not God and in this lifetime, we cannot fully comprehend the mind of God.

One of my favourite saints, St. Augustine a doctor of the Church who wrote extensively in the 5th century, considered much about the Holy Trinity. He had a deep desire to understand more fully this mystery of three persons in One God, and more importantly –to be able to explain it. There is a story told , how while he had spent considerable time trying to understand this mystery, one day he walked along a beach and suddenly saw a small child alone on the shore. He watched while the child made a hole in the sand, took a little cup and ran to the sea, filling the cup and pouring it into the hole in the sand. After watching the child go back and forth over a period of time, St. Augustine went up to the child and said, ”what are you doing?” The child replied, ‘trying to empty the sea into this hole.”

Augustine, amused said, ‘how do you think you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole with this tiny cup?’

To which the child answered,” how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the Immensity of God?” and then the child promptly disappeared.

As people of faith we need to spend time considering the Triune God who so blesses us as Father, who redeems us as His Son, and who makes us holy through His Spirit. But to do that, we need to pray, and pray often; not simply when we come to Mass on Sunday, but at other times and at any time we feel that movement of the Spirit to think of or speak to God.

Ultimately, as St. Augustine also wrote once; it is far more important to worship the Holy Trinity, than to understand the Holy Trinity.

But this is not something that we need to throw up our hands in exasperation over. It is something that should move us to be in awe of, and praise, the mystery and wonder of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

So as we continue our pilgrimage as children of God, we pray that each of us will grow in a deeper knowledge, understanding, and love of God and each other in all of life’s ‘mysteries’ .

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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Easter – Pentecost (Year B)

So often when we look at today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles, with its description of tongues of fire and the sound of something like a whirlwind, we expect that this is the hallmark of the movement of the Holy Spirit.  We look to see God’s activity in the world as monumental or spectacular.  It’s as if we are saying, ‘if the Holy Spirit is active in my life, surely that would be accompanied by sights and sounds and actions that are certain to amaze and impress.’  The logical conclusion to this would be, of course, that in the little things, the ‘ordinariness’ of our lives, that the Holy Spirit of God is not active or moving through us.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  Of course God can move and inspire us to great heights, and throughout salvation history, God performed great signs and wonders – we can think of things like the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus of the Israelites when they left Egypt; or Jesus calming the stormy sea with a word – but more often, God’s presence and the action of the Holy Spirit appear in less dramatic fashion – think of the prophet Elijah and God’s revealing of self to him in the still, small breeze; or perhaps the resurrected Jesus walking quietly beside the disciples on the road to Emmaus as an unknown stranger.

We should never confuse the outward flash and show of something (or someone) with importance.  We have two accounts today in our readings of the Holy Spirit being received by the Apostles – the first from the Acts, with the whirlwinds and fire and the result of the Apostles being filled with courage and conviction and going out and preaching to the crowds in Jerusalem; no longer afraid and remaining in hiding, but boldly proclaiming the resurrected Jesus.

Contrast that account with the passage from St. John’s Gospel – Jesus appearing to his disciples in the upper room where they are still hiding, and breathing on them, saying ‘receive the Holy Spirit’;  here we have God in the person of Jesus, the Son, imparting the Holy Spirit in a quiet, calm and intimate way;  quite apparently unspectacular.

But the results are most certainly spectacular; here this small group in Jerusalem will take this Gospel – this Good News of Salvation through Jesus – and spread it throughout the Roman Empire and beyond in a few short decades.

All because they are moved, inspired, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, given to them.

We might see these examples from Scripture, though, and whether we look at the ‘big production’ of Pentecost in Acts, or the low-key handing on of the Spirit in St. John, we might be tempted to think that the movement of the Spirit is restricted only to historic figures that had a physical encounter with Jesus, or perhaps the great saints in the history of the Church who undertook and performed great works.

We might think that the movement of the Spirit is something outside our experience or our own ‘reach’ because, quite honestly, our lives are ordinary, or unspectacular.

Don’t sell yourselves or the Holy Spirit short.  In the first letter to the Corinthians, our second reading today, the Apostle tells us, “No one can say, ’Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.’

In other words, just the urge to pray aloud or affirm that we believe Jesus is God, is a movement of the Holy Spirit within.  It may not seem spectacular, or feel particularly exciting immediately, but it is a movement of the Spirit just the same.

There’s perhaps something that we need to understand at this point as well.  As rational, practical beings, humans are given to thought and analysis and problem-solving through a whole process.  In a strictly rational, practical existence, it would make absolutely no sense to pray.

And yet, we do.  Often times we feel moved to have that conversation with our Creator God – and this conversation, this is what prayer is; and it is this prayer that is certainly not a rational exercise.

We feel a need or desire to converse with the One who loved us into existence; and it is this very desire which in and of itself, is a movement within us of the Holy Spirit.  And when we surrender to this movement, the deeper we feel invited into this relationship; and the deeper we are drawn into this relationship, the more we show outwardly our inner journey with God – the more we are inclined to show in our actions and our words that ‘Jesus is Lord’ – a claim that we can make only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And while we may not immediately see some spectacular or dazzling result in our circumstances from this movement, there will most definitely be an influence on others around us – and it is in that influence that the Spirit continues to move outward, reaching out through us, drawing us and others closer to God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.  That is indeed something spectacular and amazing.

Every time we participate in the Mass; any time we spend in prayer; each time we reach out to help a neighbour- to feed the hungry; to shelter those who have no place to live; to comfort someone in sorrow; to support those suffering emotional or physical illness – each time we do any of these things, we are responding to the movement of the Holy Spirit within us.

We are living out the inheritance that was first given to the disciples by the very breath of Jesus as He breathed on them –  this breath of Christ is the breath of God; the same breath of God that gave life ‘in the beginning’ ;the same breath which gives life as the Church is born on that feast of Pentecost;  that breath is the Holy Spirit and continues to move – to breathe -through the Church and all of her members – through you and me, urging us to proclaim ‘Jesus is Lord’ in so many ways – and every one of these ways is extraordinary, because they are inspired by God; and in that, in each of us,  there is greatness in the Holy Spirit.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Easter – Ascension

One of the most typical reactions we have to a deeply moving experience, is to hang on to it, to cling to it.  Whether it is something related to our work, to our home or social life; whether it is a moment when we seem to suddenly understand a concept we have struggled with in a particular field – science or mathematics for example; whenever we have one of these ‘aha’ moments or ‘wow’ moments, we tend to want to remain there.  This is especially true in the spiritual or interior life.  When we have a particular insightful moment or an awareness of God, we might be tempted to cling tightly to that insight. Often we want to revisit these experiences, sometimes even trying to escape from thinking about certain trials or struggles we go through by ‘summoning up’ a previous happy ‘moment’.

There is something to beware in this, though, especially in the spiritual life.  There is a real temptation to want to ‘re-live’ or ‘re-create’ the event that brought about a particular experience – it may have been a real sense of the power of the Holy Spirit, or an insight into the unconditional love of God, or a deeply felt awareness in our own hearts of the presence of Christ in others.  We may have had this experience on a retreat, or during a specific Mass.  But rather than simply accepting this insight or experience as a grace moment, as a gift from God, we cling to it and try to duplicate the conditions so that we can have this experience again, and again, and again.

The fact is, when we are deep in prayer, and if we are blessed enough to have one of these insights, the moment we try to ‘figure out’ how we got to that point, the moment of that experience begins to slip away from us.

The danger in this, particularly if this involves our prayer life and spirituality, is that we have become focussed on a gift, and have forgotten about the Giver; we are hoping for the ‘high’ that we felt in that momentary experience – rather than simply accepting a gift with a sense of gratitude.  We try to cling to that grace as if it is something private and meant only for us, and we become defensive if anyone should ‘intrude’ into that grace.  And in doing that, we turn these ‘moments’ into something that almost become little gods in themselves.

We forget that God gives us these grace moments to draw us deeper into a relationship with Him, and subsequently to draw others into that relationship.  Jesus did not teach his disciples to seek the kingdom of God solely for themselves or for their own benefit.  Time after time he reminds them, and us, of our responsibility to be witnesses to the kingdom, to invite others into the kingdom – to make the love of God and the mercy of Christ known to everyone.  The whole point is to go out and bring others into that loving companionship of Jesus – and not simply by quoting a few catch-phrases or nice-sounding quotes; we are to do so by a lived example; by being visible signs, by being witnesses to the very real and precious love of God moving through our own lives.

The disciples had numerous deep and moving experiences and an intimate knowledge of the power and the presence of Jesus in their own lives.  The Acts of the Apostles, in our first reading on this feast of the Ascension, tells us how after his resurrection, Jesus spends an additional forty days with his friends; teaching them, comforting them, sharing with them.  To say that they have had a deeply spiritual experience in the presence of Jesus, who they have seen raised from the dead, would be an understatement.  But here they are, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and Jesus is lifted up.

(Luke is quite specific here – he says lifted up and that they lose sight of him in the clouds – it’s not as if Jesus kind of faded into nothingness on the ground in front of them, or ‘metaphorically’ ascended to a ‘higher consciousness’ – Luke who takes great pains in the detail of his gospel and the Acts, says Jesus was lifted up and they lost sight of him in the clouds)

But while they are ‘caught up’ in this experience, standing in awe and not moving, two strangers in white robes (we’re given the impression they are angels) say to the disciples, “Men of Galilee why do you stand looking up toward heaven?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go to heaven.”  In other words, the angels seem to be reminding the disciples; you’ve had a wonderful experience. Now instead of standing here and clinging to it, do something with it!

And just what are they supposed to do?  Well in St. Mark’s gospel which we heard today, before his ascension, Jesus tells his disciples to go and proclaim the good news ‘to the whole creation”  Yes, he tells them they will work great wonders, but the important thing is that they spread this ‘good news’ – the good news that God has reconciled all of humanity to himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That the history of God working through the children of Israel to make Himself known to all people has culminated in this point, and that this salvation, this reconciliation to God is held out for all who will accept Christ.  But this language of Jesus in this gospel, to ‘go and proclaim’  is how Jesus tells the disciples, just as the angels tell them, and us; ‘you have received a tremendous gift – an experience of relationship with God himself;   now do something with it!  Go out and share it with others; share it with those who do not know God; share it with those who are starving for relationship; share it with those who are trying desperately to fill their lives with all sorts of things that cannot possibly satisfy them; share it with those who have no sense of being loved.’

The reality of the love of God in our own lives is not restricted to single experiences or grace moments; the love of God is something that moves and lives and breathes in and around and through us every day, all the time, if only we have eyes to see it

Perhaps in hearing this gospel we may have one of those grace moments; a sense of the wonder and beauty and nearness of God.  If that happens thank God for it, and rather than clinging to  it tightly as a private possession, release it with an open hand and open heart, to see how God will use this experience to draw us and others closer to himself.  That is, after all, why we were created, and why Jesus entered into our humanity in the first place; to teach us how to receive the most precious gift of all, the love of God, and to do something wonderful with it.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Easter – 6th Sunday (Year B)

There’s a little commercial phrase that we see pop up this time of year on coffee mugs, t-shirts, picture frames, and other gift-shop items;

“God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers.”

It can be a heartwarming little phrase, even if it is really ‘off’ theologically.  We believe God is everywhere – and it has been my experience that most mothers, particularly those who work outside the home, wish they could be in more than one place at a time, but can’t.

Maybe it would be more appropriate for us to say that God is everywhere, but to make His love more visible, He gave us the gift of motherhood.

(this is not to discount the gift of fatherhood, but this weekend the secular world observes Mother’s Day – Father’s day is next month, and someone else is preaching then.)

Mother’s are (sometimes exclusively) the first teachers of their children.  They teach them how to talk and to walk; to develop their motor and social skills.  They eventually set the standard of right and wrong that their children will learn – and that standard is often set by example.

But mothers always give advice; sometimes that advice is not appreciated at the moment by their children, but as we grow, often we recall in our daily circumstances the wisdom that our mother’s passed on to us. Sometimes we can almost hear our mothers say, ’if you loved me, you would listen to my advice.”

And it’s more than remembering to always wear clean underwear when we go out, or to say “please” and “thank you”.

Often it is in how we treat other human beings, or relate to God.

In our Gospel today from St. John, we continue to recount Jesus words during his Last supper.  Jesus, who at this point knows He is to suffer terribly and die for all people, and rise again on the third day, says to his disciples, ‘if you will keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” Jesus makes the connection between his love and his teaching – that true disciples, those who claim to follow and love Jesus, must live out his teaching.  To do otherwise, is truly inauthentic.

The same writer of this Gospel, St. John, phrases it even more bluntly and directly in his first letter: ‘ whoever says he loves Him and does not keep His commands is a liar.”

And what are these commands? Well basically it is all of the teaching of Jesus; all of the teaching and commands of God handed down through the ages, through the Prophets, the law and through Jesus himself; but ultimately all of these commands and laws are boiled down to two points, or two categories if you want.

The first is ‘you will love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul’

The second is ‘you will love your neighbor as yourself’

Jesus said all of the commandments and the laws rest on these two commands.  And one is reflected in the other, and balanced with the other:

We express our love for God in having a relationship with Him; in worshipping Him; in spending time in prayer, in reading His Word, in learning more about Him.

But most clearly, we express our love for God in showing love for our neighbor.

It is in feeding the hungry, in clothing the naked, in spending time with the lonely or the lost, in caring for the sick – in all of these things and more – these acts of charity that we show our neighbor is how we show our love for God.

And Jesus does not make this optional; He makes this a command.  And these acts in which we show this love do not have to be tremendous or extraordinary;  it is in the common, day-to-day acts of simple kindness and consideration that we can show our love for our neighbor; holding a door for someone; helping someone who is struggling with a load; encouraging someone who is having difficulty at work or at school.

And it is just the opposite in how we do not show our love for God; in neglecting others; in unkind or uncharitable words; in treating others as a means to an end; each time we do this, we are placing ourselves in that group that Jesus describes;” whoever does not love me does not keep my words,”

And we have to be just as careful here, not to think that in doing good deeds or works, that somehow we ‘earn’ our way into God’s good books; that somehow it is through the work we do that we ‘earn’ salvation;  it is not that at all;

Salvation is a gift from God; Love is a gift from God; and when we accept those gifts, we live out those commands of Jesus, not because we have to, but because we want to. Our outward expressions of charity and kindness and goodness and holiness are an outward response to God working in our lives. Our obedience to His commands is an expression of love for Him; and our acts of love to others are an expression of that obedience.

We have all kinds of guidance and direction from God that we can look to: we have the Ten Commandments; we have the teachings of the Old Testament Prophets; we have the words of Jesus; we have the teaching of the Church:  but we live in a world that says all of these commands are somehow a restriction on our freedoms – that the commandments and all that follow are a ‘limit’ imposed upon us; in essence, that which is good – the laws of God – are a bad thing when seen through the ‘secular’ lens; when in reality, all of these commands are to prevent us from self-destruction;  think about it’ thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not commit adultery; honor your mother and father,” how are these bad? These are guides to live; to prevent us from imploding; to prevent our society and ourselves from collapsing in on ourselves. That is true freedom.  But to follow them means we have to take responsibility for our own actions, and that might even mean making an effort.

Sometimes, we can become a little frightened or intimidated; we might think – “some of my ‘neighbors’ or people in my parish or community are really difficult, and I don’t know if I can always express charity and kindness to them.”

This is where Jesus again expresses to us the generosity and goodness of God; St. John records Jesus saying ‘the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.”  In other words, the Holy Spirit will be our strength and guidance in living out those commands to love God and neighbor, even in the most difficult of times; if we are open to Him, and believe the promises that Jesus made and continues to make to us.

God the Father gives us the Holy Spirit to inspire and keep us in His ways. Jesus gave us the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to continue to teach, and guide and direct us; and God gave us mothers: not because he couldn’t be everywhere – but precisely because He is everywhere, always showing His gifts of love and charity and guidance in our everyday lives, and inviting us to love Him in return.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Easter- 5th Sunday (Year B)

Springtime is a time for preparing and dressing and pruning vines and other plants. Sometimes we enjoy this work – sometimes not so much. But this season gives a graphic example, at least for gardeners particularly, of the meaning of the teaching of Jesus in today’s message from the gospel of St. John; the dead, disconnected growth that will not bear fruit or flowers is cut away and discarded. The main healthy branches are left to receive even more of the life-giving energy that comes from the main vine. We can look at the ‘pruning’ analogy that Jesus gives in the Gospel in two ways; one way would be God pruning the branches that bear fruit; that they will bear still more fruit; generosity of spirit, joy, peace, love for God and others.

A second way of looking at the ‘pruning analogy’, is that we too have to trim our own branches in our faith lives; if there is an activity or something that we know prevents us from growing closer to God; if there is a choice we make that we know is contrary to the commandments or the teachings of the Church, we need to remove those things, to prune them off, in our own lives. Jesus says He is the True Vine; and reminds us that apart from Him we can do nothing.

St. John writes both our gospel and our second reading from his first letter. In both, we hear about the desire to remain close to God. St. John uses the word ‘abide ‘ in both the gospel and his letter; abiding is much more than just saying we are a part of something, like a member of a group or a club – it means living out what we believe; abiding means to be in a state where our words and actions are influenced by that state of being.

In his first letter, St. John speaks of those who abide in God; that they keep His commandments – and that is how we know we abide in God; by a desire to abide in Him and a desire to keep His commandments. Do we fall short? Most certainly,and in this lifetime, on this earth, there is no one who does not fall short of perfection and total union with God ., and anyone who thinks or says otherwise is deluding themselves… there is only one who is perfect in word, and action and thought, and that is God…the greatest Saints in the Church didn’t think or act or speak as if they had ‘made it’…they lived in humility, recognizing that they too were only human and prone to falling short of complete and total union with God in this life; that’s what sin is – it’s a falling short in our relationship with God by deliberately putting other things first – things which interfere with our connection with God… …we can strive for the ideal of perfection, but even this striving is inadequate; we can never reach this goal through our own efforts – it is only through the Grace of God that we can come near Him. It is only through God’s reaching out to us, moving us by His Spirit and drawing us closer to Himself through Jesus that we come near Him, it is only when we are ‘connected’ to God that we abide in Him.

Motherhood is a perfect example; think of the pre-born child, from conception through the early stages of pregnancy; the child’s survival depends totally on the mother; life, warmth, nutrition – all is drawn from this growth within and connection to Mom…separated from Mom at this stage, the child has no source of the necessities of physical life.

During our life on earth, as we grow towards eternity with God and develop our relationship with Him, we are like those children in the womb in a sense; born into this life, born into adopted childhood of God in baptism, but not yet born into eternity; we draw our very life, from God through Jesus; but when we deliberately separate ourselves from God we kill that life within us. And we can separate ourselves in a whole variety of ways – certainly by our actions and words, but also by our thoughts or even our lack of action; refusing to follow the commands of Jesus to love God above all else and love our neighbor as ourselves; and just like the unborn child in the mother’s womb, if we become disconnected from the one who gives us life, the life of God within us cannot survive. We become like those branches that have been removed from the vine…we wither.

But like the child growing in the womb, or like healthy shoots of a plant, when we remain connected to the vine, the fruit we bear becomes apparent; and not only to ourselves, but to those around us. It is the example in our outward actions and words that will draw others, not to us, but ultimately to Christ. And this is what it means to be a fruitful branch of the vine…not simply being good so we can go to heaven; but being a living witness to the love of Christ – inviting others into relationship with Him, and doing so for the glory of God; a God who loved us into existence and continues to grant us the graces we need to grow ever closer to Him.

To abide in God, we need to remain faithful to Jesus in all that He instructed us to do (after all, His instructions were teachings to draw us and keep us closer to God) and follow His commands which are handed down to us in the teaching of the Church; the Church didn’t make up Sacraments; Jesus did all these things ; He gave us the Sacraments and He gave us the Church to grant us the graces to live in, or to abide in Him. To abide in God, we need to constantly remain in contact with God; we do that first of all with prayer; by maintaining and deepening our own prayer lives, and pruning away the things that keep us at a distance from God; we can’t stay connected with someone we love or desire to spend time with if we never talk to them or listen to them, and God is no different. Connected to God through all of these gifts, we can truly live and breathe and move and grow to our full potential as sons and daughters of God – to satisfy our own desire to remain closer to God; to live as branches of Jesus, the One True Vine.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!