St Francis Q&A

Sunday, May 10, 2009

5th Sunday of Easter - homily

I’ve been working with a couple on getting their marriage validated in the Church. I spoke with them the other night about the Church’s beautiful and rich teachings
on marriage which are based on Christ’s teachings on marriage. We talked about the qualities of Christian marriage, the goods of marriage, and the promises that the spouses make - the intense promises to love and serve each other “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death does us part”. I like to review these promises with all couples who I prepare for marriage because they are so beautiful but also so significant. Do they realize what they will be saying to each other before God and others?

So, the three of us were going over all of this beautiful stuff when the man jumped in with some examples from the news. He pointed to some tough situations where spouses hadn’t lived out their promises, and in fact, lived out the opposite of what they’re called to do in marriage. He pointed to examples of violence of spouses toward each other or their children, infidelity, etc., and asked why it is some people live out marriage so poorly and others live it out so well. The woman immediately gave an answer which is right on the money. She said, “the difference is Christ”.

“The difference is Christ”. This is such a profound statement about living a fruitful marriage, and about living a fruitful life in general. And, this is the exact point that Jesus is making in today’s Gospel. He says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing”. It really is put very simply for us: if we want to live good and fruitful lives, then we need to live in Christ. This is really the statement that this couple is making about their marriage: it will be most fruitful if it’s in Christ. It’s the statement that all of us make when we come to the sacraments because it is in the sacraments that we remain in Christ and bear much fruit.

I would like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all of our mothers, and use the example of some mothers to see how the difference is Christ. First, our mothers on earth. When we look at our mothers and how fruitful their lives have been, we see that it’s because they have remained in Christ and Christ in them. We see it in their love, kindness, generosity and all of their virtues. They have remained on the vine which is Christ and their lives have been fruitful.

Next, we look at Mother Church. We learn from Scripture that the Church is the bride of Christ (Book of Revelation) and that Christ and the Church are one (St. Paul). The Church has been so fruitful for 2000 years because she has lived so faithfully in Christ. Christ is the vine and the Church is the branches. Now, some people cynical focus on the barren branches – those in the Church who haven’t remained in Christ and so haven’t been fruitful. But, there are thousands and thousands of examples in the Church of people – the saints - who have lived very fruitful lives on the vine of Christ. I would like to focus on one of those in a moment.

We also look at our mother in Heaven, the Blessed Mother, Mary. She is the most fruitful mother of all time. This is not just because she is the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God. It is because of her virtue. She lived heroic virtue her whole life. She remained so close to Jesus and always said yes to the Father’s Will. We should constantly look at Mary and see how she lived virtue, especially in the midst of suffering. She is the model for mothers and for all of us.

Finally, the best way for us to remain on the vine which is Christ is in the Eucharist. In fact, when Jesus teaches about the Eucharist in John 6, he uses the exact same language: “whoever remains in me and I in him will live forever”. This is how we remain in Christ and he is us: Holy Communion. The Eucharist is how we grow on the vine and bear fruit in our lives. Another mother, Mother Teresa, teaches us this. She said that she wouldn’t have lasted more than a week serving the poorest of the poor if it weren’t for receiving the Eucharist each morning at Mass. The Eucharist was her secret and the secret of all the saints, especially saintly mothers, in living fruitful lives. Through the Eucharist, may we all be fruitful branches on the vine which is Christ.


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