Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 25, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We live our lives in relationship. We are all related to someone. A parent to a child. A spouse to a spouse. A friend to a friend. A worker among workers. A believer in Christ in the body of other believers in Christ. These bonds are spiritual. They are like gravity. They pull on us. They are invisible, but they are real. We feel them. They have power over us. They shape how we see ourselves. Our relationships are made up of all kinds of human gravity: This gravity can be love, sympathy, compassion, hate, fear, the memory of the past, the experience of the present, the anticipation of the future.

Today’s Gospel is about relationship. Jesus describes a particular relationship, His relationship to us. He talks about the gravity that connects us to Him. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” What incredible intimacy. Think about it. Jesus might easily have said, “I am the sun, you are the dirt,” or more frightening still, He might have said, “I am the shoe, you are the bug.” After all, He is God and very, very big; we are human and very, very small.

Instead, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” But just what does that mean? If you think about it, isn’t Jesus, in fact, saying, “I am part of you. You are part of me. We are parts of one another. We are the same thing.” The story asks us to consider the gravity that makes Jesus and us one and the same thing. So what is this gravity? We are bid elsewhere in the scripture to love in deed and in truth. Doesn’t it seem like this is the answer? Isn’t the gravity that binds Jesus and us love?

Okay. Jesus said it, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” so it must be true. But if Jesus and we are so connected to one another that He and we are one and the same thing, and it’s love that makes us one, how come we don’t feel it? After all, we all know what love feels like. Everyone of us has loved someone or something. A mother or father, a wife or husband, a partner, a brother or sister, a child, a friend, a co-worker, a car, a house, a toy. Whoever or whatever you have ever loved–think about that experience.

In love, our hearts move outward toward the loved object, encompass it, cling to it. For an instant, we forget ourselves. We lose ourselves in the other person or thing. For an instant, there is joy in this surrender of self to the other. In these moments, understanding the meaning of, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” is easy, easy, easy. But those moments are oh so very rare. Let’s face facts, we can use all kinds of beautiful language to talk about life, but life in many ways is hard. Our unending chores make us tired and sad; even what makes us happy grows stale. Our closest friends are still distant. The new grows old–the days pass by–life goes on–the Verizon bill comes every month–if we are young, there is always more homework–if we are older, our skins sags more and more–wealth evades us–friends die. And all that is just normal living. The really terrible personal experiences, like cancer, alcoholism, bankruptcy, the death of a parent or child, a loveless marriage, these are the pains that fill a person with tears. So much suffering make us cynical. It tempts us not to love God. It tempts us to believe that God does not love us.

And with other people, even when we don’t feel gooey feelings for the people in our lives, at least we can see them. God we can’t even see. The challenge we face is to look into all the dullness, the sameness, the constant grind and know that Jesus is the vine, we the branches, that is, we are in love with God and He with us. So just how do we know this extraordinary fact when life itself is so ordinary?

First of all, you and I feel the gravity of God. We crave something, and we are certain that what we crave is something the world cannot give. If someone asked us to name what we crave, surely we would think of God. In the dullness, the dryness, the ordinariness of life, we may not always feel the joy and surrender of love, but trust this fact: It is enough that you want to love God, whether or not you feel the joy and release of loving God. Anyone who wants to love God, already loves God. If you want to love God, the vine and the branches are surely a part of one another.

Saint of the day: Bede the Venerable was born in 672 in England around the time the country was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Saints Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there his whole life. A Benedictine monk, he was the spiritual student of the founder, Saint Benedict Biscop. Ordained in 702 by Saint John of Beverley, Bede was a teacher and author. He wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

Bede was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ, that is, he was the first person to use the notation AD for years after Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He is called a Doctor of the Church. He died May 25, 735.

Spiritual reading: And I pray you, loving Jesus, that as you have graciously given me to drink in with delight the words of your knowledge, so you would mercifully grant me to one day have you, the fountain of all wisdom and to appear forever before your face. (Venerable Bede)

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