5 Easter B – May 6, 2012 – Co-Workers in the Vineyard
Acts 9: 26-31; Psalm 22:26-28,30-32; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
Receiving holy communion for the first time is a momentous and exciting event for our children and all of us. Some might say it is the best part about being Catholic.
Last Tuesday we celebrated another sacrament — confirmation. In his homily Bishop Howard Hubbard spoke about vines and branches — the parable we just heard in today’s gospel. He reminded us that the vine represents Christ and the branches symbolize you and me.
Vines need nourishment and care to produce good grapes. Christ provides that sustenance, the bishop said. But, if the branches are not cultivated the grapes will not be good. If the grapes are not good — imagine! — there would be no jelly, no juice, no wine. In short, the members of the church, you and me, we need to be enriched before we can bear good fruit.
We believe we are sustained by the body and blood of Christ, God’s word and one another. However, our rituals and our sacramental food and drink are not enough. They do not give shelter to people who are homeless; they do not feed people who are hungry; they do not rescue children who are trafficked, bullied or abused.
In this sacrament of communion we see something of ourselves and a call to action. We are not only branches we are also the vines stretching out, reaching out to one another. That our children will share the eucharist today, and the rest of their lives, does not mean they will stop relying on their parents and guardians for a home, meals and education. God’s love for them is dependent on our love.
Sometimes our image of ourselves as members of Christ’s vine is not strong. We Catholics often are dependent on others to define who we are, what we believe and how to live our lives. How can we begin to understand ourselves not only as branches but also vines? Can we see ourselves, clergy and laity, as coworkers in the vineyard who together till the soil, trim the vines and pick the grapes?
It is easy to understand why some people say their church no longer speaks to them, their lives, their concerns. Frustrated they often seek other vineyards. But, the church is defined by all of its members not just those who are ordained. If we all understand ourselves to be the church we might see the importance of sticking with it, to become more engaged with it, to cultivate it, nurture it, feed it with our own spirit.
There are thousands of different grapes in the world: red and white, sour and sweet, seedless and not. Sometimes the owners of vineyards cross two or more varieties of grapes to create a new blend or hybrid. The Catholic church today is experiencing a cross fertilization of diverse voices. Although the process is slow and sometimes frustrating, from time to time we do see something new emerging. A mixing of good fruit from the vine will produce new refreshing religious experiences for us all.
Today new branches are sprouting on the vine, our young brothers and sisters who are here to receive their first communion. As they grow and become more involved as members of the church it is important for us to listen to them.
For today, let us enjoy the fruits of our labor, let us eat heartily and drink merrily of the bread of life and the cup of salvation. After all, mindful and respectful of the God of all creation who initiates and guides us in all we do, we are the coworkers in the vineyard who produce these holy gifts.