10 MAY 2009

       ''I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.'' What does that mean? Once again in John’s Gospel Jesus is telling us who he is in one of many different ways. Through out John’s writings are scenes of Jesus saying who he is. We hear ''I am the bread of life'', ''I am the light of the world'', ''I am the gate for the sheep''. Last Sunday we heard ''I am the good shepherd''. We also hear in John’s writings that ''I am the resurrection and the life''. and finally ''I am the way and the truth and the life''.

       In today’s reading Jesus is telling how to achieve salvation and that is through him and his father. We can not do it on our own; we must continue to grow in the words of wisdom he has spoken on behalf of his Father. The disciples are sitting around at the table and listening to Jesus and his discourse. The disciples have been pruned by listening to Jesus and accepting his teachings.

       So when we come here to Mass each Sunday we come to hear the Word of God through our liturgy, and as we listen and participate we are being pruned to be better people in the image God would like to see us living as his son did. Really there is no better person to want to be like than Jesus, is there?

       The vine grower, The Father, provides everything the vine needs to grow and to bear fruit. If you remain with Jesus you remain as part of the vine. If you fall away or leave by not practicing what he preaches, then you become separated from the vine where as Jesus says ''they will be thrown out like a branch and wither''. When we separate from the vine we just become so much dead wood that would be gathered and thrown into the fire to burned.

       You may recall in a previous homily, I told you about the four girls at the juvenile correction facility that told me they started getting into trouble when their families stopped going to church. When their families stopped going to church they fell away from the vine. They separated from the vine and withered.

       We all know people who have fallen away from the church. They have left for many reasons and some just never return. Some leave and see the light and come back. Jesus “the light” along with the Holy Spirit guides them back into the fold. People come back to our way of life for many different reasons. It may surprise you to know that I fell away from the church for a period of my life during the 1980’s. In looking back on why I fell away, the best I can recall is I was just to lazy to get up and go to church.

       After so many years of teaching religious education and of course the four years of training to become a permanent deacon I have a whole new deeper desire to come to an understanding of our catholic faith and the traditions and rites it represents.

       I used to have a day off in the middle of the week and my father and I would meet for breakfast on a somewhat regular basis. He did not harp or pound on me to go to church, but periodically he would say something. After our daughters were born 1985 and 1987, he would occasionally mention that we should at least get the girls baptized. Susan and I proceeded to have them baptized and we started going back to church.

       After getting back into the church I was looking for a way to be more active in the parish. My job was, and still is, unique in a way that I really can not participate in activities during the week on a regular basis. I happened to be in the parish office one afternoon and was expressing my desire to do something in the way of participating in the parish life. I was talking to the DRE, Diane, and she suggested teaching religious education on Sundays. It seemed a natural fit to my schedule and I taught 5th grade for a number of years.

       As our girls continued growing older my wife started teaching the younger students and we helped for the next couple of years. It certainly was a great way to grow in our faith and be nourished as the fruit of the vine, and to be pruned from time to time.

       As the people of God we are called ''to love one another as I love you''. As we gather together here we continue to grow in our faith and be nourished to become the fruit of the vine, let us hold in our prayers those who have fallen away from the vine, that they may rejoin us soon.

       We experience life in a whole different way by remaining in Jesus in the church. This gift of new life is why we celebrate Easter for fifty days.

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