This past week I was recuperating from a minor ailment and I watched a lot of TV. Tuesday, I was watching a panel discuss current events and one panelist’s answers to question struck me. The first discussion was about the rioting in Baltimore and this panelist said that one of the underlying factors contributing to the rioting was the breakdown of the family; without a father image at home these youth had a disadvantage. The next discussion concerned the Supreme Court Case on same-sex marriage. He commented that the case was really about discrimination against the desires of Americans. His opinion was that those against same-sex marriage were biggots.
I was reminded of a homily I gave a few weeks ago at Sunday Vespers where I spoke about the beautiful mosaic in San Clemente Basilica in Rome – the Tree of Life Mosaic. The beautiful mosaic has the cross, the tree of life in its center with Christ hanging on it. From the feet of Christ radiates outward a vine and in between the vine were depictions of life. From the top there is a hand that reaches downward and seemingly is pulling up the tree, the vine and those attached. God pulling up to him those who live with and in Christ.
Two pictures depicting alternative lifestyles
1st – chaotic – piecemeal mosaic of man trying to things on his own. Confusing and conflicting realities because man tries to define what is just and right based the immediate situation and upon the agenda of a few charismatic and powerful forces. This leads to no truth and no true solutions.
2nd – beautiful colorful mosaic of man living their life connected to Christ the vine. A life of peace and joy. There will be hardships; but attached to Christ and with the strength given us by His Holy Spirit we are healed of the damage done by those hardships. We are nourished by His Spirit and given energy to radiate the beauty of life connected to Christ. We are at peace even though peace might not be around us.
This second mosaic is what Christ intended for each of us. His loving action on Calvary wasn’t a once for all change in this world. He never intended it to be – what would be the point of heaven? His gift of salvation to those who accept it would allow us to enter the most perfect union with Him at the end of times; so His gift of His body and blood as nourishment and communion is given to strengthen us for the journey. A journey that gives the chance to gift ourselves to each other and by doing so help bring those around us to Him. The first reading from Acts shows us the two mosaics – the disciples were fearful (and with good reason) of the murderous Saul’s intentions. The disciples were still living in the human picture. But Barnabas was now part of the beautiful vine mosaic. He has given himself over to the Lord and His Spirit. He helps the others do the same.
At this time in Eastertide Holy Mother Church emphasizes this journey, highlights that we are still working out our acceptance of our Lord’s pascal gift and shows us how to succeed. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.’ We hear proclaimed today. Jesus tells us that to live life in the fullest we need to live it with Him in Him. And so we should. All we have to do is look around to see that, at best, what society is trying to offer us is a mirage and probably more like a charade – nothing that is offered out there brings healing and peace and joy – unless Christ is at the center.
But how? How do we, in the face of the overwhelming pressures of modernity, live on the vine. How do we receive the nourishment it offers?
This leads us to another of Christ’s gifts to us. Let’s remind ourselves that the words of Christ in today’s gospel are from the Last Supper where He institutes the Eucharist. But He also alludes to the final gift of His spirit during that meal– the Holy Spirit. He will not leave us to our own devices – even with the eternal and supernatural nourishment of His body and blood. He offers us His own Spirit who lives within us. His own Holy Spirit that is an animator, and counselor, and guide, a paraclete.
In a few short weeks Holy Mother Church will celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the birth of the Church. We are now turning our celebrations towards that celebration of Christ’s living gift of nourishment from the vine. Our part is to allow the Holy Spirit to work within our hearts, allow the Spirit to nurture, guide, counsel and protect us.
Let’s take to heart the words of the Opening Prayer today:
Almighty ever-living God,
constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,
that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism
may, under your protective care, bear much fruit…
Let’s offer ourselves daily to Jesus through His Spirit through our prayers, our words and our actions. In this way we can be assured of the fruit we produce.
There is an urgency to this offering of ourselves. We can’t think of this as only helping ourselves but it is imperative for those who look to us for the future. These past few weeks and the ones following will see many first communions – confirmations. Tonight, our school is holding its annual dinner dance. The future looks to us to bring into the focus the right picture. They depend on us to hand them a mosaic that gives them the same chance, if not a better one, on their journey then we have on ours.
This might sound scary. We see in our world an aggressive resistance to all things Christian and so we might be hesitant to live our faith in the public, but we shouldn’t. The idea of proffering this alternative picture to the world might seem too big for us, but it shouldn’t.
Thirty-six years ago the world saw a radical event in the election of non-Italian pope. In his installation homily St. John Paul the great spoke words that resound down to each of us: ‘BE NOT AFRAID Open the wide the doors to Christ’. These words were spoken on a day that we celebrated ‘World Mission Sunday’
This is our calling, our mission – to show the world a beautiful mosaic as the alternative to chaotic and destructive picture offered by society. If we don’t then only a scary and desperate picture remains.