I caught up with Father Daniel last night, and asked him for his homily from Sunday. I explained how the text was one we chose for our wedding – we gave our guests a little card by way of favours: the only one we have left is rather battered as you can see!
Fifth Sunday of Easter (B) 2018
Spring….and the presbytery roses…before Christmas I gave them a hard prune, not entirely sure what I was doing: all winter they simply looked like dead canes, they are now sprung to life and from apparently nothing to lush greenery – and even flower buds – in a matter of a couple of weeks of sunshine and warmth. It seems nothing will restrain nature’s will to thrive. How beautiful God’s creation is – and that is just on the natural level…
The Gospel of Jesus Christ really can be condensed into one saying: As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you…remain in my love. Last week St John urged us to think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us…today the Lord himself reveals the reality of that love: it is the same love with which He is loved by the Father. Just as Jesus remains – from all eternity and for all eternity – in the Father’s love, wrapped-up in the Holy Spirit, so we are invited to join them…it is what we were created for! And in accepting this awesome invitation we will bear fruit: fruit for the benefit of others; fruit to glorify God, to delight God, the Blessed Trinity. He actively desires our thriving!
Remain in me as I remain in you. Remain is one possible translation of the Greek men’o. Another rendering would be abide. It is the same word the two disciples used as they reached Emmaus with the Stranger – and implored Him to stay with them for the evening. It is an active verb…it suggests not just a lingering, but a constant and living presence. And now it is not the disciples asking Him to stay with them: it is the Lord asking us to remain in Him! We may not consider ourselves worthy of this, but worthiness is not an issue: He wants to live in us and nothing will change His mind! Christian Life is the process of growing ever more deeply into that thriving He wants for us. And, just as with a rose or a vine, our growth requires Pruning, Feeding and Watering. Of course sunshine is needed, too, but (unlike in our gardens) the sunshine of God’s love is never in question!
Our hearts and souls and minds are watered by the Holy Spirit, the Living Water. In our Baptism that Living Water marked us as belonging to God for all eternity, and the same Spirit calls us to constant re-freshment and re-vitalizing in a life of prayer. At its simplest and most profound, prayer is nothing other than choosing to remain in the presence of God, who is already present to us (whether we feel His presence or not…).
As for pruning, God the Father is, in Jesus’ words, the Vine-dresser, removing dead branches and pruning those who do fruit, in order to bear even more. None of us can escape that pruning if we want to grow. There is the pain, the sadnesses of life which God permits us to experience: the situations which appear to be beyond our control; the weaknesses we seem to have inherited and struggle to conquer; the sickness and death of those we love: all of which God has permitted and which, when endured with faith, serve to bring about a greater good. There is also the active pruning we undertake in co-operation with Him: if we are remaining in Him we will come to a deeper sense of our sinfulness and tendency to selfishness: all of this can be conquered in the wonderful sacrament of Confession, where the dead branches in us (our sinful habits) are removed and burnt in the Fire of His Mercy.
And as for feeding, nourishment, the wine of the True Vine is so infinitely superior to any earthly wine that it has ceased to be wine: He feeds us with His own living Blood, His own saving flesh, so that even now the life of eternity, the life of the Risen Saviour Himself, may begin in me. If I receive His Body and Blood with love and longing for salvation, if I spend time enjoying His presence in the intimacy of prayer, if I am willing and engaged in the ongoing pruning work I need, I will flourish, I will live a life of love here an earth, and enjoy that love for all eternity in the new heaven and the new earth. All this the Risen Jesus has won for us: let us praise Him now and for ever, Amen.
A couple of wild roses from Scotland – pruned regularly to keep the canal path open.