5th Sunday of Easter
When King Henry VIII rebelled against the Church for not being able to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he left his subjects a very clear choice: either they were with him, or they were against him – and those who were against him were soon deprived of many things, including their very lives. In the wake of that, many great stories of faith emerged including that of St Thomas More who tried to remain loyal to the King but not compromised his faith. Eventually, he too had his head chopped off. Kneeling before the executioner, he said: “I die the king’s loyal subject, but God’s first”. (I suggest you watch the movie: “A Man for all Seasons”). Others of course sold their souls and took the King’s side, not just for fear of their lives, but also for the opportunity to gain wealth and honour.
In our times, and in our daily lives, the choices we have to make in life may not appear as drastic like those faced by the subjects of King Henry VIII. Perhaps that is why today, many people live an apathetic life, indifferent to many real important things in life. It brings to mind the famous saying: “make a stand for something, or fall for everything”. Yet, our Lord famously said; “anyone who is not with me is against me…. (Luke 11:23 and Matt 11:23). Even more with Our Lord, one cannot really take the middle ground – a dollar each way so to speak. Either He was the Son of God, or He was a mad man or worse…. BUT, if He is the Son of God – then it means God came to us with something important – and the Truth makes a demand. Faith makes a demand. I often hear people talking of ‘unconditional love’. When used in relation to God, it is almost like a throwaway phrase to justify their indifference, and their ignorance. Yes, it is true, God’s love is unconditional as Christ died for us even when we are still in our sins. But the nature of love is that it invites a response, and as such it makes a demand: John 14:15 comes to mind: “if you love me keep my commandments…”.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Our Lord tells the people that He is the true vine. He invites us to graft and root ourselves as branches into the true vine. The Jews whom Jesus was addressing knew very well the vine on which they were supposed to be grafted and rooted, for in the Old Testament, the People of God, was referred to as the vine (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:7; Hosea 10:1) which the hand of God had planted (Psalm 80:15; Jer 2:21). The Gospel of St John emphasizes how essential it is for each one to be united with Jesus, the source of life. Only when a branch in joined to the vine can it bear fruit: only when we are part of that mystical body of Christ will be start to be what are called to be: another Christ to the world.
Either we are part of the vine and draw life from it, or we are already dead. Let us not fool ourselves: there is no middle ground. Unlike King Henry VIII’s subjects, there is always time to make that choice while we are still alive, and it is embracing the choice now that we discover the great adventure and fulfilment to which God is calling us.
Easter Blessings, Fr Michael