Good afternoon parishioners of St. John’s and Immaculate Conception!
May God give you His peace! Happy feast day of St. Teresa of Avila!
I offered Mass today in the rectory for all of you and in thanksgiving for my new assignment as Pastor, which became effective at noon today. It’s a beautiful feast day to become pastor, given the radical life of holiness we celebrate in St. Teresa, and the work in the Church and in her community that she helped bring about through her conviction and deep intimacy with Our Lord.
While I was reading the gospel for Mass, I was struck as well by how Providence (Our Lord’s hand lovingly guiding the course of human history) presented our parish (and the whole Church, of course) with a beautiful ‘first gospel’ as we begin this new chapter together.
The gospel was from John 15 in which Our Lord used the example of the Vine and the Branches to describe how we are to remain connected to Him if we want to bear any fruit—and not just any fruit, but fruit that will last (Jn 15:16). Unlike the fruits of this world—and not just citrus and stuff, but material possessions, prestige, comforts, etc.—the fruit that comes from remaining in Christ, remaining connected to the vine, being members of His Body the Church, is everlasting and life giving.
This, primarily, is our eternal salvation—our souls (and eventually our bodies) being with the Trinity for all eternity. The seeds of this fruit are sown in this life—they grow through grace, through our participation in the Sacraments, and having an active prayer life. And if we train our sights, we can even start to see these fruits being born here and now.
What does this look like? Growth in holiness, leaving sin behind and taking the hand of grace, and, as Fr. Richard taught you all, speaking the language of God—Love. We can do all kinds of things individually and as a parish, but without love we are noisy gongs (1 Cor 13). That’s why we must always remain united to Christ—the Way, the Truth and the Life—in all we do as a parish and as members of the Body of Christ. For apart from Christ and His truth, as Pope Benedict once wrote, love/charity/caritas degenerates into sentimentality and “becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (Love in Truth, 3)
As we move forward together, in Love, in Christ, let’s remain on the vine and, with His Grace, bear much fruit. For, it’s in doing this and living intentionally as disciples of Christ that we glorify the Father (Jn. 15:8). God bless you.