5th Sunday of Easter
“Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit.” Entrance Antiphon: Ps 98(97):1-2 — “O sing a new song to the Lord, for He has worked wonders; in the sight of the nations He has shown His deliverance, alleluia.” First Reading: Acts 9:26-31 — “Barnabas reported to the Apostles how Saul had seen the Lord on the way.” Responsorial Psalm: Ps 22:16-27, 28, 30, 31-32 — “I will praise You, Lord, in the assembly of Your people.” Second Reading: 1 Jn 3:18-24 — “This is His commandment that we may believe and love.” Alleluia: Jn 15:4a, 5b — Alleluia, alleluia. “Remain in Me as I remain in you, says the Lord. Whoever remains in Me will bear much fruit.” Alleluia, alleluia. Gospel: Jn 15:1-8 — “Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit.” Communion Antiphon: Jn 15:1, 5 — “I am the true vine and you are the branches, says the Lord. Whoever remains in Me and I in him, bears fruit in plenty, alleluia.” “Christ has no body but yours ... no hands ... no feet on earth but yours ... yours are the eyes with which He looks compassionately at the world ... yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good ... and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now” (Saint Teresa of Avila). I believe with that statement I just read, Teresa of Avila captures the heart of this weekend’s Liturgy of the Word. If Christ is to accomplish His work of hope and love among us, the vine must rely on the branches. Thus, Christ will be all in all. “Whoever remains in Me and I in them will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing.” There is a legend about a holy man whose works amazed the angels themselves, and they sought to know the secret of his holiness. The angels asked that he might be given the ability to perform miracles, and God consented. The angels asked the holy man if he would like by the very touch of his hand to heal the sick. “No”, he replied, “I would rather God should do that.” So the angels asked, “Then would you like to convert guilty souls and bring them back to right paths?” ... “No,” said the saint, “it is the Holy Spirit’s mission to convert ... I only pray.” But the angels were persistent. “Would you like to be a model of patience and draw men by your goodness?” ... “No, if men are attracted to me, they might be estranged from the Lord.” “What then do you desire?” asked the angels. The saint answered, “That God would give me His grace ... that I might do a great deal of good without knowing it.” The angels were puzzled. Finally, they decided that whenever the shadow of the man should fall where he could not see it, the shadow could cure disease and comfort sorrow. So it came to pass, as the saint passed along, the hearts of people were given hope wherever he walked. Sometimes it is easy to forget that all love, all hope, all faith, all good deeds have their origin in the Blessed Trinity and that we are mere conduits of God’s grace. God loves us so much that God sets us free. We have the free will to accept God’s magnificent grace and to be conduits of that grace or not. God hopes that we take up the urging of Teresa of Avila to be Christ wherever we find ourselves, branches that draw their strength from the vine. We are all called to be conduits in the vine. In this is our strength for Christian life. There is in South India a story of a wealthy landowner who had some very quarrelsome sons, always jealous of one another and always arguing among themselves. On his deathbed, he called them and divided his property among them. Then he called for some sticks to be brought nicely tied into a bundle, and asked them one by one, beginning with the eldest to break the bundle. So long as they were so closely bound together, they could not break any of the sticks. “Now,” said the man, “untie the bundle, and try to break the sticks one at a time.” This was not difficult, and before long the sticks were broken one by one. The father thus taught his sons that united they stood, but divided they fell. Saint John’s first letter today lifts up one of the major themes of his writing. “Little children, love one another.” Love is the bundle of sticks that cannot be broken. Love is not a suggestion but, as Saint John would have it, a command. And so, let’s approach this Easter altar and take our proper place as the branches firmly connected and united to Christ our vine, making us unbreakable and one in Christ.