Fifth Sunday of Easter

My dear young people who are receiving your first Holy Communion today, we welcome you to the big table. Today marks a very important day in your life. You get to do what your parents and many others do each weekend here in church. You get to take in your own hands the bread and wine that Jesus changes into his own body and blood, and which he gives to us as food for heart and soul. Like many things we do for the first time, we definitely believe it’s a big deal. But like many things we do repeatedly, we sometimes forget how important they really are, and we turn them into just ordinary things.

God the Father sent Jesus to tell us how much he loves us. While he was on earth, Jesus told some really memorable stories about shepherds looking for their lost sheep, and farmers sowing seeds in their fields, and some very lucky people finding treasure hidden in a field, and a father who welcomes his son back after he had wasted his inheritance. He taught us to forgive our enemies, and to be kind to those who are unkind to us. He fed the hungry. He healed the sick. He made lepers clean. He opened the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf. He even blessed the children when his apostles wanted to send them away. And when his enemies made false accusations against him because of their jealousy, he did not fight back. He endured much suffering, and was put to death even though he was innocent. But God the Father raised him back to life, and gave him power to bestow eternal life on those who follow his way.

But before he gave up his life on the cross, Jesus sat down at table with his closest friends. He took bread which he blessed, broke, and gave to them. “This is my body,” he said. And he took a cup of wine. “This is my blood. And every time you do this, remember me.” Jesus wanted so much to be with us, to be part of us, to be the very life in us that he gave himself to us as food. When we take food and drink, at some point we can’t tell it apart from us. Jesus wants to be as close to us as the food we eat and drink. That’s how much God wants us to be with him, and he with us.

Today Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and we are branches on the vine. The branches need to stay connected to the vine. It is their source of air and nourishment. It is their source of life. So we need to stay connected with Jesus or we dry up and fall away. Branches will not survive apart from the vine. So we will not survive apart from Jesus.

Another important lesson from the vine is that its branches also support and depend on each other. They send air and nourishment to each other through the vine. So we share our life with other members of the community of Jesus’ followers and disciples through our own connection with Jesus. St. John reminds us in his first letter. “Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” Our actions prove that we understand what we believe. Otherwise, we are just all talk, and we don’t really mean what we say.

When we promise to stay in touch with friends, we can’t just say it. We also need to mean it. Jesus wants us to stay connected with him. And this happens best when we call on him in prayer, when we take the food and drink he gives us—his body and blood, and when we love our neighbor in deed and truth. Stay in touch with Jesus. Only he is our life.

Rolo B Castillo © 2018