A Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 28, 2024
Prince of Peace Catholic Church – 10:00 Mass
Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

Audio Recording

 

I’m willing to bet we have several gardeners here today. Raise your hand if you’re a gardener. Even if you’re not a gardener, you probably understand that if a plant is to thrive and bear fruit it needs to be carefully pruned. If it’s allowed to grow without pruning, it may get bigger but the growth is more leafy growth and it doesn’t bear as much fruit as when it’s well-pruned. Right?

This is certainly the case with grape vines. Pruning a vine is an important part of helping it to grow and produce not only more fruit but the best fruit. If left unpruned, a grape vine will eventually produce less fruit and poorer quality fruit.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus uses the imagery of pruning a vine to help us understand that we too must be pruned if we are to be fruitful disciples of Christ. This pruning increases our faith and leads us into a life of greater charity, increasing our love of God and of neighbor. Jesus uses this imagery of the vine to teach us three important truths of the spiritual life.

First, Jesus says that He is the “true vine.” He is the ONLY source of the nourishment we need for the new life of grace. He is the only way to Heaven and salvation. Knowing our Lord and being attached to Him firmly is what is required for us to grow in faith, to have his life within us.

Secondly, our Lord tells us that He removes every branch from the vine that does not bear fruit. This indicates that faith without the good fruit of charity is dead and is like a branch on a vine that produces nothing. There is no place on the vine for dead branches.

Thirdly, He tells us that when a branch is bearing fruit, he doesn’t leave it alone. Instead, He prunes it with loving attention so that “it bears more fruit.”

To apply these teachings to our own lives, we should begin by looking at our faith as if it were a branch firmly attached to a vine. We should ask ourselves, “Am I firmly attached to Christ and his Church? Do I believe all that God has spoken through His holy Word? Do I believe and try to faithfully follow ALL the teachings of the Church, not just those I find easy or convenient?

If we are to continue to grow in our faith life and bear spiritual fruit, it’s essential that we regularly examine our conscience and bring our failings to the confessional. Since faith is the first step in the spiritual life, it must remain nourished by the Truth God has revealed to us.

We do this by regularly receiving the Eucharist in a state of grace, and by studying the Scriptures and the catechetical teachings of the Church. We must then assent to those teachings with all our mind and our heart, even when we find them difficult.

Next, after we affirm our faith in all that God has spoken through the Scriptures and the Church, we should examine our charity. Do we see CONCRETE ACTS of love in our life blooming from our faith? We can “love” many things in a purely emotional sort of way. But true charity is based on faith, not on how we feel.

True charity, true love, is to WILL THE GOOD OF THE OTHER, to give our lives, our resources, our talents and gifts, to those in need without counting the cost. What acts of charity can we point to in our life? What have we sensed God calling us to do in a selfless and sacrificial way? Have we done it?

In today’s second reading, St. John emphasizes the importance of not just saying we believe, but DOING it! He says “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

Finally, when we discover the ways that charity is blooming within us, know that God will focus His PRUNING there. Pruning can be painful. It will require sacrifice, patience in the face of trials, overcoming selfishness, and doing things we don’t feel like doing. In fact, sometimes God even makes charitable acts seem unpleasant as a way of pruning our motivations and making them more pure, based more on faith than on emotion. But this is good.

Dear friends in Christ, God the Father wants us to “bear much fruit.” He wants us to perform acts of love, whether great or small, in all aspects of our lives, and at all times. The key to living this life of love is remaining on the vine, staying in spiritual communion with Jesus.

The more we love and obey Jesus, the more our lives will become conformed to his. We should strive to become living icons of Christ such that, when people look at us, they actually see and experience God’s love shining through us!

Jesus’ words today are also a warning to us not to break communion with him, not to fall from the vine. Cut off from the source of spiritual life, we will “wither” and die, and end up in “fire”.

We must always stay on the vine of his Church, even when we are disappointed, distressed or confused by its human leaders and members. The evil one wants to remove us from the vine and he will do and say anything to accomplish this. Don’t believe his lies…stay firmly attached to the vine, to the one holy catholic and apostolic church!

Dear friends in Christ, reflect, today upon this holy imagery of the vine and the branches. It’s a lesson from nature that reveals the supernatural life of grace at work in every baptized Christian.

And don’t be deterred by the pruning God wants to do in your life. Embrace suffering with love, respond to injustice with forgiveness, offer mercy when you don’t feel like it, and seek to serve selflessly those who seem undeserving.

Doing these things will prune you so that God can build up His Kingdom in glorious ways through you and, as John says in today’s second reading, you will have great CONFIDENCE in his love for you and you will receive whatever you ask, according to his will.

God bless you.