Sunday Homily- Fr. Luke Uebler- May 2, 2021

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.” Words from our Gospel today from the 15th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

Has anyone ever seen an apple like this? If you were hungry and needed your fiber and vitamin c for the day, then my guess is that this is not the first apple that you reach for. If you were shopping at Tops or Wegmans, you wouldn’t put this in your shopping cart. In fact, you want nothing to do with this apple. Even to pick it up and throw it out is gross. It is overripe. It’s rotten, good for nothing. The same could be said for other fruits, or leaves even, or branches – once they are plucked off the tree, separated from the vine, they have lost their source of life and their worth disappears as they shrivel up and die. Efforts at preservation only go so far. Everything has an expiration date; everything has an expiration date, including us. Freshness, vitality, vigor… these only come from
remaining connected to the vine, the source of life.

In the days of the Old Testament, the image of the vine signified God’s special relationship to Israel and the care God exhibited towards his people. Jesus expands the understanding of God’s relationship to his people and re-appropriates this image to refer to himself: ‘I am the vine. Divine life is found in me.’ Indeed, it is an image of the most intimate and personal relationship, a mutuality existing through, with, and in each other. The vine is made up of its branches. The branches have life because of the vine. The vine bears fruit through its branches and the branches bear the fruit of the vine. Joined to Christ as branches are joined to the vine, we too are enlivened, and thereby we bear fruit in abundance. Jesus’ image of the vine and branches is still a good image for us today, for this is the very essence of what it means to be a disciple! Disciples live in Christ. Disciples bear good fruit through our union with him. St. John tells us today, “This is how we will know we belong, that we remain in him,
if we love one another as he has loved us. Children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in deed and in truth.” We know that it is not enough to talk about love; we must demonstrate our love for God and each other. Our very connectedness, our life on the vine is demonstrated through concrete action and the fruits we thus bear.

If you are loyal to your friends when they are having a bad day, cheering them up, offering a helping hand when they needed you the most, you remain in their love. If we hurt each other by something we said or did but go on to apologize and offer forgiveness, then the relationship perdures, and so we remain in each other’s love. When spouses are intentional about their relationship and make time for each other calling each other during the work day, going on date nights, listening to the other’s cares and concerns, they are remaining in each other’s love. When we are grateful to someone for all the good that they have done to us, and become generous in turn, we remain in their love. When we listen to our parents and put into action all they have taught us, we honor the good of what they stand for or have stood for and so remain in their love. When we pray for others living and dead, we ask God to bring life into that relationship and so remain in their love. When we love one another as Jesus has loved us,
we remain in his love, which brings us to the most concrete action of them all. Jesus shares this image of the vine and branches and of remaining in his love over the course of a meal: at the Last Supper itself. He is telling us that this Eucharist is our way to remain in communion with him. Take this and eat it, take this and drink from it – this is my Body and Blood which is given up for you. There is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for a friend. As often as you eat and drink of this, you do so in remembrance of me. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I remain in him… In this Eucharist, in this Holy Communion, we become one Body in Christ and we celebrate the intimate union we have, just as branches are connected to the vine.

During this Easter Season, we are celebrating First Holy Communions for our young folks in the parish. If I’ve shared this with you before, bear with me because it’s worth sharing again. Grandpa said in the First Communion Card he gave me, “Buddy, Congratulations on receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus for the first time. Stay close to him always. Love Grandpa.” That is our goal, stay close to him always! What an honor and a blessing it is to be called to the Supper of the Lord, whether its our 1st Communion or our 1000th Communion, to share intimately in the very being of Christ in this Holy Communion we have, which we celebrate in this Eucharist! Remain always in his love, so that you will bear fruit, not rotten fruit, but the good fruits of discipleship that will last for forever.