Fifth Sunday of Easter
Let’s Get Growing
Honestly, when we first meet people who look and sound different from us, what do we really think? Or maybe they look like us on the outside but hold such polar opposite views from us that they might as well come from another world. Surely, they are not from our branch, vine, or tree. Their manifestation on this earth in no way resembles our own, right? I bet we could all think of folks who could fit into this category.
Thankfully, Barnabas was not deluded by ‘us vs. them thinking’ or Paul would have never gotten the chance to write all those letters to the Colossians, Corinthians, Thessalonians, and to us. Barnabas was a brave man, welcoming Paul into the fold. He took a risk and put his life and reputation on the line for this former persecutor, justly earning his name – Son of Encouragement.
Are we not called to do the same in this Easter season and beyond? Wasn’t Jesus’ mission aimed at getting us beyond the ‘us vs. them’ attitude? Didn’t Jesus teach us to welcome the stranger even if he or she was a former persecutor? So, this is a very tall order, right? How do we do it when we are scared, righteously angry and possibly even disgusted by the other? How do we do it? Not on our own, that is for sure!
We can do only be like Barnabas with the power of the risen Lord coursing through our hearts like revivifying sap. And we can only get this energy if we stay connected to the Source - Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is in turn deeply connected to his Sources, God the Creator, and the Holy Spirit. And isn’t the essence of these sources all about Love, true Love? The kind of love that allows us to forgive a persecutor, invite them in, encourage them to share their story and include them as part of the solution.
Jesus goes to great lengths to provide us with metaphors and images. These metaphors and images stress the core truth that we are interdependent with one another and him. He did not say, “there are many vines”, rather I am the true vine – there is only one vine and if we live in Christ, we are all connected to this one vine and thus to each other. This is the body of Christ. Jesus wants us to remember who we are and how he enlivens us all. We are totally dependent on Christ.
We are part of something much bigger than ourselves, and growth necessitates pruning. What is the purpose of the vine, the branches, and the whole plant? To bear fruit! And anything which hinders this, has got to go. Our spiritual life should prune us to bear more fruit in ourselves and for others. The fruit we bear in Christ…love, justice, peace, compassion, mercy, generosity…is essential to feed the starving. With this fruit of the Spirit of love we can feed people to satiate the true hungers of our time.
Jesus promises us that abundant life is not in some far-off place in the future, but rather here now. His presence is permanent and has the power to open new possibilities. We are invited to be part of a new reality, to bear fruit for a starving world.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get growing! The world is hungry.
Sr. Jeanne Shary, OP
Dominican Sisters of Sparkill