Fifth Sunday of Easter - Fr. Adam Royal
May 1, 2021 - 5:00 PM
May 2, 2021 - 8:30 AM
The Scriptures can be difficult to understand. They were written for a world two thousand or more years ago. And things have changed a lot in that time. We have changed. For various reasons, we have become concrete thinkers. We want to see things for ourselves and touch and verify them. We don’t like hypotheticals, and we don’t like symbols. Unfortunately, that opposes us to the biblical world. The Bible loves metaphor and symbol. It loves poetry and layers of meaning. This distinction between our way of thinking and its way of thinking is what makes the Bible so difficult to grasp.
When Jesus says he is the vine and we are the branches, I think we easily distort his message. We know he is not literally a vine. Jesus is not a plant. But the image of the vine, like most biblical metaphors, is not a mere symbol either. The vine not only points us to the truth, but it does so uniquely, in a way that other images can’t quite duplicate because it makes that reality present for us. This picture makes clear to us a reality that we don’t otherwise have words to describe. We are the branches on the vine of Christ. Our lives are dependent on Christ just as branches are dependent on a vine. A vine, as it matures, shoots out new branches and sustains them in being. God created us for no other reason than to have life and enjoy it. God sustains us in that life. Whatever we need to thrive he gives to us so long as we cling to him, so long as we remain joined to him.
But clinging to God is not a static reality. It is dynamic. Stagnation is the enemy of the Christian. We cannot continually remain in the same place saying the same prayers, sinning the same sins, and pretending that we are good people just because we aren’t murderers and thieves. To be Christians, we must grow. The life of Christ is to intensify within us and then stream forth to others. That is what it means to bear fruit. It is to become a source of life and joy for the world. When God came into the world it wasn’t so that things would remain the same; it was to make them better, to make all of us better and even perfect. He came to heal our wounds and then give us life in abundance.
If we are unwilling to receive that grace, if we refuse to grow and bear fruit and be a source of sustenance for the world then we will be removed from the vine; we will be cut off from Christ who is life. We all get stuck in a rut sometimes, or we become absorbed within the endless business of the world, and the spiritual life takes the back seat. But we cannot remain there. If we truly believe that Christ is life, that even now we can have a foretaste of the eternal and heavenly life, then we must give the spiritual life priority. We must strive to draw closer to Christ by prayer, hearing the scriptures, and receiving the sacraments, so that his life, his grace, can build up in us and help us grow. Then we must take that growth and carry it out into the world, most especially to the poor and suffering and give them a share in that life that we have come to know. The vine of Christ is meant to envelop the world. It is intended to make the world into the Garden of Eden, the paradise that we once lost to sin, but in the death and resurrection of Christ is being offered to us again.