Message: Jesus is all we could ever ask for.
This Sunday we continue the theme of being disciples and disciple makers - namely, our union with Jesus and in Him our union one to another. Jesus gives a vivid image: We are joined like branches on a vine. The theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar puts the matter this way:
"The parable of the vine conveys a marvelous sense of assurance." It means, he says, that we are not "dependent solely on our fragile selves." but that united with Jesus, "we can lead a useful and meaningful existence."
Von Balthasar adds that along with that assurance comes a requirement, "Remain in me, as I remain in you." This requirement is so urgent that if one does not remain in Jesus, he will wither away, be pruned off and burned.
Our union with Jesus is the central event in human history. No matter how much as person thinks he can accomplish, it will go nowhere apart from Jesus. "Without me you can do nothing."
St. Paul illustrates this. In the first reading we hear about his conversion and integration into the Church. As a "Pharisee among Pharisees" Paul had worked zealously and had led an exemplary life, but he counted it as nothing compared to knowing Jesus, having Jesus' life within. Remember Paul was baptized and then participated in the "breaking of bread." In fact, he led those early Christian Eucharists (cf. Acts 20:7ff) Through those sacraments he received Jesus' life. He was joined physically to Jesus like a branch to the vine.
And you know something else? St. Paul took up collections! When Paul met with Peter and the apostles to lay out his doctrine, they gave only only one admonition, "Be mindful of the poor." See Galatians, chapter 2, verse 10. Paul adds, "that was the one thing I was eager to do."
And he did it. We see, for example, in the letters to the Corinthians, he spends a couple chapters on the the collection for the poor of the Mother Church in Jerusalem. (II Cor 8 & 9)
Like Paul I do not hesitate to ask you to make a pledge to the Annual Catholic Appeal. It is a practical way to express and live our union with one another in Jesus. He is the vine, we are the branches. Because of this union we have a blessed assurance, "Ask whatever you want and it will be done for you." You see, Jesus is all we could ever ask for. He tells us that if we are joined with him we will 1) glorify the Father, 2) bear much fruit and 3) become his disciples. Amen.
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