May 2, 2021 – Fifth Sunday of Easter
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/050221.cfm)
Plant-lovers – (plantitos & plantitas) know that for a banana shrub to grow and bear much fruit, it has to go against the natural process of growth through pruning or trimming. Meaning, for new shoots to bud and sprout, and more fruits to bear, planters have to prune, i.e., cut-off dried leaves, trim, or peel off the dried skins of the banana shrub. Otherwise, we got more dried leaves and skins, but undernourished sprouting shoots and bud and in effect little or no fruit at all.
Jesus in our gospel today describes our faith relationship with Him, akin to relationship of plant’s vine & branches. He reminds us that while He is the vine and we are His branches, “the father takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does, he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” In other words, for us to be His good disciples we must not only remain connected, loyal and steadfast in Jesus, but we also have to experience & go through pruning & trimming in life for us to bear much fruit.
Spiritually, sometimes that is what God our Father does to us. Sometimes God prunes or trims us, make us experience suffering, sickness and trials not for its own sake but for us to grow and bear much fruits. Sometimes we do need to experience our limits so that we may be open to receive God’s abounding blessing. Why? Sometimes somehow we grow comfortable and complacent in our spiritual life that we content with our routine of personal prayers, devotions, personal salvation – trying to lead healthy spiritual life, but we fail to bear fruits of spiritual life for others. Remember: a healthy branch, plant or tree is useless – is nothing, if it does not bear flowers and fruits for others to taste and see.
In one way or another, during these pandemic times, we are suffering now with a lot of trials, problems, restrictions, and difficulties in life. Perhaps God is pruning us now. Perhaps we are being pruned or trimmed by God not only to be healthy in our spiritual life but for us also to bear much fruit for others & for our life now. Remember, Jesus is concerned not only with the plant but also with good fruits. He wants us His disciples not only to be healthy plants but more so to become fruit-bearing & producing plant for life & God’s Kingdom.
So often we view religion as merely our personal relationship with God that exists as though a plant in a vacuum. Yes, we acknowledge a connection with others and the need for community, but so often we see the community merely as a support to have a healthy relationship with God. There is something critically missing here. Where is the fruit? The Lord wants us to build up the community by producing more and more Christians followers & believers, i.e. how we can increase the Christian population of the world, and ultimately, of heaven. Our goal in life then is to bear and produce fruit, His fruit – fruit for our lives & His Kingdom. Thus, the Lord places upon us the mission & responsibility for the growth of the kingdom of God. He uses us to call & invite other people to Himself.
Consider, at the end of our lives we have to stand before the Lord showing him what our lives produced. He is not going to be interested in our bank accounts, our homes, our athletic, intellectual, or artistic accomplishments. He is going to consider how well we loved others. He is going to count souls. He is going to look to see if we did all we could, to bring others to Him. Jesus is going to look for people we don’t even know, who have been strengthened in their faith by seeing & witnessing our faith. What does the Lord want then? He wants us through Him & with Him, to bear & produce fruits.
If we want to do our best in bearing fruit for Him, we need to stay united to the vine, united to Christ. We need to have His Life flowing through us – which at times needs the Father’s pruning. We received His life at baptism, but if we cut ourselves off & distance from His life by ignoring the vine, by slacking off from our worship of God, by allowing ourselves to be untended & unpruned, then we will have no fruit to bring before God’s throne. It is not enough to say we are people of faith, to say we are Catholic. We ought to practice our faith. We ought to stay united to the vine. We ought to bear & produce fruits for God’s kingdom in our lives.
Being Christian, being Filipino Catholics is indeed not easy vocation & mission. It means dedication, sacrifice, determination to live as Christ called us. It demands being pruned by God & having to produce for the Kingdom – something to show & contribute for our lives. But we can do this, and we will do this, as long as we are stay connected & united to the Lord, to the vine whose life flows in us & through us.
In this mass, we pray then that that as the Lord’s branches being pruned at this time of pandemic, we Christians may all have the spiritual courage & perseverance to remain united and connected onto Christ, our true vine, so that we may bear fruit for our life & His kingdom now & forever.
So Help Us God, So May it Be. Amen.