5th Sunday of Easter Reflection
CONNECTIVITY AND POWER
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)
Several decades ago, a missionary in Africa lived in a small hut that was electrically supplied by a small generator. The little petrol-powered wonder supplied electricity for both his home and the little church building beside it. Late one afternoon two men from another much more remote village visited the missionary in his hut and were amazed when night fell, and he simply switched on the light. They were wide-eyed at the electric light bulb hanging from the ceiling of his living space.
One of the visitors asked the missionary if he could have one of the bulbs. Thinking perhaps he wanted it for a sort of trinket, the missionary obliged and gave the light-bulb to him. Months passed. On his next visit to the remote village of that same man, the missionary stopped at the hut of the man who had previously asked for the bulb. Imagine his surprise when he saw the bulb hanging from an ordinary string. The man understood the general idea of connection, but he didn’t understand empowering.
Jesus has given us a clear mandate on how we are empowered and how that power will manifest itself. Firstly we are to remain in Jesus the Christ in the assembly of the community, the church founded by Christ. That is always where we will find and remain in Jesus in the community of believers. Yes, we may have been hurt by such communities, betrayed and shunned by their leaders as well as their members; yet Jesus tells us this is where he abides and this is where he is to be found, in the community of believers.
As Jesus the Christ appeared to Paul, Jesus told him that the attack upon the community of believers was an attack on Jesus himself. It is through reconciliation, forgiveness, and penance we return again and again to the place where Jesus is to be found within the community of believers.
We may be shamed and angry at religion so that we accuse the church of all that is wrong in society, yet this is where Jesus is to be found, within the church in the community of believers.
Sinful yet holy at the same time, we return again and again on our journey to find Jesus within the community. This is a foundation stone that we are called to accept or we must reject Jesus as a liar and a fake.
It is also within the community of believers that Jesus comes into us through his body and blood. This is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of God, given to us to be in us as we remain in him in the community. It is the strength and power given to us to become like Christ, overcoming all adversity, and even death. It is the strength and power given to us to perform the impossible and that which is beyond our nature; that which is super-natural.
This is the power that gives light, the power that is Love. This is the power to overcome selfishness, personal ambition, and the destructive forces of our judgemental and competitive natures. Jesus the Christ in his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity is the source of this power of Love. This is Love that must empty itself for the other; always forgetful of self for the good of the other, even unto death.
Jesus tells us that there is no other source for this power of Love, this is the lodestone and without it we have no life within us. And again here, either Jesus is the Christ, is God who has given us a holy route to follow or we must reject Jesus as a liar and a fake to continue clinging to the ways of this world.
It is this Light of Love within the community of believers empowered by Jesus the Christ out of which the great saints of the church have through the centuries, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick, given solace to the lonely, and given hope when all seemed dark. This is also our power today that we are called to breathe into the world.
Beyond mere principles of moral theology, we are called “to keep together the demands of the Gospel and human fragility”. In the appeal of Pope Francis, all of us are called “to enter into a living relationship with the members of God’s people and to look at life from their perspective in order to understand the real difficulties they encounter and to help heal their wounds.”
Darkness of heart will grandstand, “love the sinner, but hate the sin”, a phrase that injures, demeans, judges, and ostracises our brothers and sisters who are all made in the image of God. At the heart of Jesus’ life and ministry is the way he drew people close to him, listened to them, touched them, broke bread with them, wept with them, and treated them with dignity, as equals.
Our seraphic father, St Francis, understood how such creeping hypocrisy could enter into our hearts and so warned us not to go about the world contending about words… “When they go into the world, they shall not quarrel, nor contend with words, nor judge others… as becomes the servants of God and the followers of most holy poverty”. This is the holy poverty that saves us from imposing our will on the meaning of God’s Word.
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