Fifth of Easter (Easter IV)
John 15 verses 1-8
When Jesus arrived in heaven, all of the angels were there to greet Him. After the formalities, they asked Him whom He had left behind on Earth to finish the work that He had begun. Jesus answered, “Just a small group of men and women who love Me”.
“That’s all”? Asked the angels, who were completely astonished. “Are you kidding us. After all, these are human beings we are talking about here. What if this tiny group should fail”? Jesus replied, “I have no other plans”.
Well, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us that we are His plan to finish His work on Earth. We are to be the ones to bear much fruit.
Here’s a small example of the fruit that one person can bear. Many years ago, a university professor had his sociology class go into the slums of Baltimore to get case histories of 200 young boys. The students were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future. In every case, the students wrote, “He doesn’t have a chance”.
Twenty-five years later, another sociology professor came across the earlier study and had his students follow up on the project to see what actually had happened to these boys. Twenty of the 200 boys had either died or moved away. Of the remaining 180 boys, 176 of them had achieved more than ordinary success in the world. They had become businessmen, lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.
The astounded professor decided to pursue this further and personally interviewed each of the men. The one question he asked them was “How do you account for your success”? To a man, they replied, “Well, you see, there was this teacher…”.
The teacher was still alive, so the professor sought her out. Although she was quite elderly, she was still very alert. When asked what was her magic formula for the boys’ success, she gently answered, “It’s really quite simple. I loved those boys”.
And, isn’t that exactly what God is asking us to do too-to love other people? And, the best thing about us “loving” other people is that Jesus is right there to help us. After all, didn’t He say in today’s Gospel, “Whoever remains in Me and I in him, will bear much fruit”?
I think that Jesus specifically use the analogy of the vine to show us, not just how interconnected we are with God, but also how we are bound inextricably to one another.
Jesus used the lowly vine because, even though grape vines are gnarled and twisted around each other, they are extremely strong-just like the Church which He set up for us.
In addition, the vine underscores the fact that there are as many pathways to growth in God as there are members in the Church. In any congregation or gathering, no one person has taken the same exact route to faith as another.
But they are there because God wants them to make their home in Him as He makes His home in them
After all, “home” is where we belong. Home is where love is.
But, our home – the Church-isn’t full yet. How many people have not “come home”-have not come back to God, their true home, because no-one has reached out to them-to love them; to befriend them?
We have to be the ones who help them. We have to be their friend-to help them “come home”.
The Church which Jesus has graciously given us cannot be kept to ourselves. It has to be passed on to others. And, who knows, perhaps if we did manage to help someone come back to God, he or she in years to come, when asked how they found their faith, may say, like these boys in Baltimore, “Well, you see, I had this friend…”