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Being a Healthy Branch

    Last Friday at my parish their were 25 students who were joyfully confirmed into the faith by our Archbishop. For the second time this year, I have had the joy of preparing these students so that they may fully understand what it means to be confirmed. In the program we use, each week the kids explore a new symbol of baptism and how it relates to confirmation.  When it came closer to the end of the session the book would guide us (the teachers) to ask questions about living as a disciple of Christ, and how one goes about doing so. After asking the question, " how can we live as a disciple of Jesus?" Many students simply answer, " by helping others." I always challenge them by saying, "How can you help others?"  After asking that question the kids are stuck.

     Todays Gospel is one of my personal favourites because of it's deep burial in beautiful imagery and metaphors. Jesus begins by saying, " I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower"  and with this one line, in my head, pops up an image of a grape vine and a gardener taking care of it. Jesus continues in the Gospel by saying that God "prunes" every branch that the good branches may bear more fruit.

     Every good plant needs to be pruned, if it is to stay healthy and alive. Every so often a sub-branch will appear on the main branch that doesn't bear fruit and/or is dead. So the gardener prunes it, so that the plant can send the vitamins and water to the alive branches that are bearing fruit.  It is the vine that gives us the essentials to survive and to bear much fruit. It is the vine that gives the branches everything it needs so as to live and to be beautiful. Without the main vine, all of the branches would die because it has lost its connection to the rest of the plant.

     So Jesus says that we are the branches and that he is the vine. He is the one that freely gives us the essentials to survive, and bear sweet fruit. It is the vine that gives us the nutrients to thrive and to be a strong branch firmly connected to the vine. Just like the plant, we to can have some dead branches. These dead branches can steal from us the nutrients needed for the good and living branches. These dead branches are sin. Sin can detach us from the vine and can use up and take away vital nutrients from the living branches.

    It is these dead, sin branches that the loving and forgiving father prunes from us. But only after we are ready to let them go. It is when we have a conversion back to the fruitful, living branch when God cuts off the dead branch. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we allow God to prune our lives. We allow God to cut off the dead branches, and allow him to give us his grace to be a strong living branch.

     The Second Vatican Council said that the Eucharist is the "source and summit of the Christian life." It is Jesus who must remain at out centre. It is him whom we must rely on, and visit often to give us strength and to help us remain in communion with him. It is in the Eucharist that we receive strength and certainty in our life. It is in the Eucharist that our fruit is rooted in. Without Jesus, without the Eucharist, our fruit is useless. So through prayer and constant visits to the Blessed Sacrament chapel we are given strength to bear fruit.

Blessed Sacrament Chapel at My Parish.
     The Gospel this weekend describes to us that we must abide in Jesus, the true vine. The first reading shows us the fruits of St Pauls early life after his conversion In many ways we can help one another. It is helping others that make us a disciple of Christ, and as the writer of the Letter of John says, "Little Children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action." This is indeed how we stay connected to Christ. By living what we preach, to walk the walk and talk the talk. It is through our actions of love the we stay connected to Christ. It is our actions that speak slowly but powerfully.

 On this fifth week of Easter may we come to abide in Christ and allow Christ to abide in us. Christ is the vine, and for us to be sustained we must let Christ sustain us. We must abide in Christ and allow him to abide in us. By doing this we become united in him and we can become strong, and rooted in him and produce living fruit.

1) Conversion is not a one time thing; it is a process that happens throughout someone's entire life. We are constantly being called to a conversion of heart; to refocus on God and to adore his son.


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