The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Sing along/listen to:
The readings and prayers can be found here:
We sing along/ listen to:
‘My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples’.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
He is risen indeed, alleluia!
Imagine for a moment, that you are living a different life. Imagine that you’re in Tuscany, that wonderful Italian countryside with the great city of Florence nestled in the centre. Imagine that you’re on a farm, a rural farm, with the world’s best rolling hillsides, its picturesque sunrises and breath-taking scenery. Imagine that you’re given thirteenth acres of vineyard of Sangiovese grapes to tend, which will produce some of the best wine in the world. Imagine all of that at your fingertips…
That was the experience of 10 people who embarked on what they called their ‘Second Chance Summer’. The venture was produced by the BBC and it had to be one of the best reality TV shows I’ve seen in a long time. The programme gave these people the chance to leave their old lives behind and experience rural, rustic, Italian living with the opportunity to relocate at the end…
The programme showed the back breaking work involved in managing the vineyard; the constant care and attention needed for the branches on the vines to produce fruit, all of which needed tending, pruning, caring, cultivating, feeding and harvesting by hand. As one participant put it; it’s such hard work, but it’s worth it, because it’s life…. It gives life…
The local priest Father Gianni summed it up, caring for the crop is ‘a love, a passion which people give their all.’
Those words of the priest struck me, tending the crop, tending the vineyard is ‘a love, a passion which people give their all’. Today, Jesus says, I am the true vine… and you… and you… are the branches. We don’t need to imagine ourselves in Tuscany tending to the vineyard, as nice as it sounds… we need to realise that we are in fact the branches… we are the branches that are designed to bear fruit, fruit that will last and bring life! We are called to be as good if not better than that Sangiovese wine at the end… What Jesus is referring to of course is our lives of discipleship. Remember the verse with which I began, that we, believers in Christ glorify the Father, when we ‘bear much fruit’ – it is in bearing that fruit that we are disciples.
So, the question this morning is twofold: do we bear fruit? And if not, how do we begin to do so?
I would hope the answer is a resounding yes to the first question. To put it another way: are you truly living the Christian life? If you are, and there are no areas for improvement, you can switch off now. But in the words of Father Gianni, ‘do you do so with love and passion?’ Do you ‘give it your all?’. So often our spiritual life can go so untended that the fruit that we are called to bear either dies or goes sour. Sound familiar? Like those 10 in the farmhouse there is plenty of work to do cultivating, picking, feeding. Do we actively do those things in order to bear fruit?
What might be required of us, in order to bear fruit. Firstly, in order to remain connected to the vine, to abide in Jesus, we are called to pray. When we pray, we literally ‘abide’ in God. Prayer connects us into God’s life, it enables us to truly stay on the vine, connected to Jesus; so do you pray each day? Do keep company with God at all times, or just when times are tough? How are we to pray? To come before God in adoration, in thanksgiving and open your heart to him. If you don’t pray each day, try it, open your heart, ask God to enter it and converse with him. We are called to pray.
How else to we ‘abide’? We abide when we feed off him, when we literally, feed… when we feast on word and sacrament. Do you regularly read the scriptures? This is what we are called to do, this is our work, the work of the Christian is to grow in Christ, to strengthen that graft to the vine. If you don’t read the scriptures every day, try it, if you need a Bible and can’t get one, ask and we shall provide one. Try just a chapter a day, as we draw closer to God. We are called to read.
If you do read, and even if you don’t, do you actively seek to understand God’s word, and learn about the teachings of the Church, like the Ethiopian in our first reading? When the restrictions are over, there will be plenty of opportunity to study God’s word, and setting the bar high, I’m expecting a good turnout. As I want you to you to bear fruit, just as Jesus said, so that this parish may truly ‘glorify the Father’. We are called to learn.
Finally, do you feast on the Blessed Sacrament, Christ’s precious body and blood? Yes, we’re here today, but do we really know what we’re doing? Yes we’re receiving a small wafer of bread, but do we know in our hearts and minds that this disc of bread, in which contains the love of God outpoured, which is itself a participation in Calvary, do we know that this is the most holy, sacred object on earth? And we Christians are able to feast on it? Do we realise that? We are given the opportunity of consuming God himself, so that we may truly bear fruit? When we come to the altar and receive, do we do so reverently, do we do so conscious of what it is that we’re about to eat? Do we then return to our seats and pray, thanking God for the salvation won for us in Christ Jesus? Do we pray that the body we have received would truly make us a part of his body, and connect us eternally to the vine?
Do we have work to do in our Christian lives? The answer from every single person here should be a resounding yes.
You don’t need to imagine you’re in Tuscany (as nice as that is) you need to cultivate your lives here, and now, those words of Father Gianni once again, the people to it ‘with love and passion’ – deepen your discipleship with love and passion – praying, reading, learning, eating, with deliberate intent, so that you may truly glorify the Father, and ‘bear much fruit’ for Jesus is the vine and you are the branches.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
He is risen indeed, alleluia!
We sing along/listen to: