|Quote: E.M. Forster - Art: Tom Phillps|
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
Well, I don’t have a vine and I’m not a gardener
and plants that come into my house don’t seem to live very long.
But I know enough about such things
to understand what Jesus is telling us here.
He’s telling us how important it is to be connected –
and to stay connected.
Being connected is part of every human being’s experience.
It’s how we all started out.
Every one of us began life intimately connected to our mother,
growing inside our mother until it was time to be born.
And once we were born, we began a whole lifetime
of wanting to be connected:
wanting to be held, hugged, embraced, cuddled, nuzzled and loved;
wanting to be with, to be united to, belong, be part of, to be joined;
wanting to be welcomed, accepted, close and intimate with another;
wanting to be one with someone; wanting to be connected…
We recognize all of that in our own experience and we also know
the loneliness, the pain and the hurt of separation,
of being dis-connected.
Jesus knew all this, too.
At his birth, just like us, he left his mother’s body
and began a lifetime of seeking to connect with others.
He had a group of 12 close friends he hung out with, worked with
and traveled with.
He was always going to weddings and banquets and dinners –
he wanted to be with people.
Crowds of people gathered around him and followed him everywhere.
He spoke often about his connection, his unity with his Father
reminding us that his Father is our Father, too,
connecting us to him, making us his brothers and sisters.
And especially in his last days and hours,
Jesus knew the pain of separation, of being abandoned,
of being dis-connected.
In today’s gospel he tells us that he’s the vine, that we’re the branches,
and he wants us to stay connected.
He wants be with us, to be one with us.
He wants us to belong to him, be joined to him, be part of him.
Sometimes his Father, the vine grower,
takes away the branches no longer bearing any fruit.
And sometimes he prunes the good branches, cutting them back a bit,
as a gardener does, to stimulate growth, to yield a greater harvest.
But sometimes, we cut ourselves off the vine.
You’ve probably seen a cartoon where a man climbs up a tree
to saw off one its branches
but instead of sitting on the branch with the tree’s trunk to his back,
he sits facing the trunk and begins to saw.
And what happens when he saws?
When he saws through the branch it falls to the ground
-- and he falls with it!
He cuts himself off.
Sometimes we cut our selves off the vine.
Some might be here today who,
because of the First Communion we’re celebrating,
are coming home to church, visiting the vineyard,
after being away for some time,
after being dis-connected.
On behalf of the vine grower let me say to all of you,
We’re so glad to have you with us.
We’re so glad to see you!”
And the good news is that the vine grower, the Father,
is an expert gardener
and he knows so well how to graft us back onto the vine
when we’ve lost our connection.
And he wants to do that because he wants to be connected with us.
How closely connected does he want to be with us?
As a child lives and finds a home in the mother’s womb
so does the Lord want to live and dwell within us.
That’s what we’re here for today – for Communion, for connection,
for Communion with Jesus, for that holy connection
in which the full reality of Christ enters our body
and he becomes part of us and we a part of him.
No matter how disconnected we’ve become --
even if we’ve cut ourselves off the vine --
the Lord is ready to welcome us and graft us back on to the vine
that we might be one with him – and with one another –
with all the other branches on the vine.
In the gospel we just heard,
there’s one word Jesus used one word 8 times:
that word is REMAIN.
He asked us to remain in him, he told us he’ll remain in us
he told us we need to remain connected to the vine
and that more we invite his words to remain in us,
the more life we will have, the more fruit we will bear.
The first step, then, is coming home to the vineyard, to be reconnected
but then we need to remain there
and grow, again, afresh, anew, connected to the vine.
Boys and girls, Jesus loves you very much
and today he will come to you in a special way -- in Communion.
But not just today, not just on the day of your First Communion.
But next weekend, too,
for your second Communion and then for your third Communion,
and one day for your hundredth
and even your THOUSANDTH Communion.
And in case you’re wondering,
you’ll be about 25 years old for your 1,000th Communion.
(I’m approaching my 3,000th Communion.)
But boys and girls, you won’t even make it to your second Communion
without the company of your parents to bring you to church,
to bring you to the vineyard of the Lord
and to keep you connected.
If you know me well at all,
you know that I often have dinner at the bar
at Vincenzo’s in West Concord
where Dave Brown is the bartender.
As customers leave, Dave will often say,
“Thanks for dining with us!
We’ll see you next week:
once a week is all we ask!”
I thought: Dave’s words are good for me, too.
“Thanks for being with us today! See you next week.
Once a week is all God asks.
Remain with us and stay connected.”
Pray with me for these children receiving First Communion,
for their parents who raise them in the faith
- and for all of us --
that we remain in Christ and he in us,
in that holy connection, that Communion,
which is ours in the sacrament of his Table.
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