“‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ Jesus tells us in the Gospels and it’s a very apt metaphor for us to understand our relationship with Christ and particularly this time of year as we have Spring and there is so much growth happening all around us as the trees begin to leaf as the flowers begin to grow. The grass is getting taller that we know that so much about natural growth. The natural growth is there because of that life giving relationship between the tree and the blossom, between the stem and the flower that there is that dynamic relationship there that without the stem, the flower would not never blossom. Without that source of life that flows through that stem through that vine there would be no life. There would be no beauty. There would be no wholeness and so Jesus uses that as an example for us to think about our own relationship with him. ‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ You are called to know that powerful life that I died and rose to bring you that that is the message and that we are truly united with Christ and He is the source of our strength. He is the source of our spirituality. He’s the source of our true meaning within life for he has died and risen that we may know forgiveness of our sins and know the fullness of life with him in eternity. Jesus is truly the source and we are the ones who benefit from that, but we are called also to bring forth fruit to bring forth those works of goodness of justice of actions of charity that we are those hands and feet, that tongue, the voice of Christ in the world today and so we are called because of our life in Jesus to bring life to others as well. What a tremendous gift we have in that vital presence of Christ within the sacramental life that he has entrusted to us.
One of the most demonic things about COVID for me was the fact of so many people being denied the sacramental life of Christ for truly the sacramental life is our encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. In every sacrament we experience the risen Christ himself: Christ present in baptism touching us with that gift of eternal life, Christ sending forth the Spirit in confirmation and particularly Christ present in the sacrament of reconciliation to bring us that healing forgiveness that he died upon the cross to share and Christ in the Eucharist, his own body and blood. The risen Lord Jesus truly present to each and every one of us in the Eucharist that we share. As well as the other sacraments of service that we experience that concrete love of Christ and Christ in the anointing of the sick giving that grace and strength as we pass from this life into eternal life. How tremendously blessed we are with the sacramental life because it is the risen Christ whom we encounter and experience every time we celebrate the Eucharist, every time we experience reconciliation, every time that we know Christ through the gift of the sacraments and I said that so many people were deprived of the sacraments for so long and so many have come back to share in the Eucharist and it’s enheartening for me to be very honest with you, I’m so enheartened with the response of people returning to the Eucharist, returning to reconciliation knowing that presence of Christ right here with us in those very special moments in those ways that he has given his very self to us, but that deprivation of the sacramental life of Christ can have different effects. For some people it creates a sense of lethargy and Jesus talks about the fact that the one who is not united to Him vitally will end up perishing and will be burnt in the fire and so that life of Christ is so essential for our eternal salvation, but for some the faith may wither, but for others I believe it’s been increased. I think that desire for the Eucharist, that desire to come together to be that body of Christ, to know Christ personally as we celebrate that gift that he gave us that gift of himself.
I can’t tell you how many times after Mass someone has come out and said, ‘This is the first time I’ve been back since COVID came. I finally got vaccinated. I finally felt comfortable to come back and how I have missed this, how I have yearned for this and I have even gotten tears in my eyes as I have experienced Christ in the Eucharist.’ That’s the tremendous gift of faith that we have to know that Christ is truly present to us that he brings us his life, his grace, his strength to nourish us to be with us that we are never alone that Christ is there in the journey of our life and that Christ makes possible the fullness of life that abundance of life here and hereafter.
Christ is the vine. We are the branches. We are called to bear fruit, fruit of goodness of kindness of greater life of greater love. We are called to draw our strength from Christ that we may share his life both here and hereafter to share the fullness of his joy, the fullness of his peace and his love.”