“I am the Vine. You are the branches.”
We accept Jesus as “the vine” and we know that “we are the branches.” But we pray that those being baptized, those entering into Holy Communion, those marked with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and those celebrating graduations will come to the conviction that it is so important—so vital—for the Church and for the world that they see and perceive themselves as branches stemming from Christ in order to bear fruit. Indeed, we need all of them to realize that their lives will only have meaning if they respond to God’s voice and live their lives as vocations—vocations to BE CHURCH!
Last Sunday evening, Msgr. James Loughnane, our Regional Episcopal Vicar, told our Confirmation candidates that they had many saints to look up to as role models, especially the saints that they chose for their Confirmation patrons. In particular he drew attention to the to-be-canonized Blessed Junipero Serra and Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero. He also held up Pope Francis himself as a saint in our times. But then he told them that there was a fourth person for them to look for today and then said that it was anyone of them! Each of the saints were branches of the Jesus, the Vine, and lived his or her faith with courage in their own time and as part of their own generation. Being a saint is worked out in our daily lives—every day of our lives.
This year on retreat with our Confirmandi, I had a particular feeling that our youth do want to know what it means to carry on being “the branches.” Thank God they want to know! We must pray that the Easter Season and living “the risen life” of faith, hope, and love gives all of us what we need to support them on their quests—on their journey with Jesus to the Father. We must also allow them space enough to grow. Choosing Jesus 2000+ years after he walked the Earth, requires knowing enough and having enough information to make the comparison between what Jesus offers and what the rest of history and the world offers us. None of us gets to escape the apostle Thomas’ doubts, but if we are persistent, surely we will arrive at the apostle Peter’s need to testify that “it is only Jesus who offers the words of eternal life.”
While scary for adults (especially parents) the challenge of accompanying the young on their journey should still be a cause for joy. It should definitely be an opportunity for deepening our own faith, of living it by giving best example, and of honing our skills in the area of articulating why we believe what we believe.
At the same time we have good reason not to get discouraged. After all, “the Father is the grower”! The Holy Trinity has this whole evangelization thing worked out. What is really required of us is that we provide fertile ground and then to cultivate that ground. Jesus, the Vine, is strong and vigorous in faith, hope, and love—SO MAY THE BRANCHES BE!