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Breaking Open the Word

5th Sunday of Easter
April 28, 2024

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Yes to the Truth. That is our theme this week – Yes to the Truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In our gospel this week, we see how very important it is that we understand that reality. Knowing that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life opens our minds to this week’s gospel that explains what we do in life needs to recognize that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The more we rely on Jesus for nourishment, the better we will be!

Acts 9: 26-31

Psalm 22

1 John 3: 18-24

John 15: 1-8

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Gospel Explained

This week Jesus speaks to us again in terms of a parable. He is the vine, we are the branches. This concept would have been readily understood by the disciples who were hearing it from Jesus. There are very similar references to the vine and branches in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Psalms. Those listening would have been taught in the Psalms that the Son of Man is the vine. Jesus is declaring His position as the Son of God – strong words for those listening.

In Isaiah 5:1-7, it is written: “Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: What more could be done for my vineyard that I did not do? Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes, did it yield rotten grapes?” The disciples would have been taught these words and listening to Jesus explain that he is the one of whom Isaiah wrote.

This conversation is taking place among the Last Supper Discourse from John Chapter 14. Jesus had explained already that Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny Him. Jesus has explained that whoever loves Him will live His words. In this case, Jesus is calling us to understand that it is through Him that we can accomplish all things.

Jesus then speaks in the same way as Isaiah did, if we live our lives close to His words, we will flourish. If we do not, we will be seen as the vines that are of no use. Branches were typically pruned from the vine and hung upon a wall to dry. They would then be used as kindling for a fire – meaning they were destroyed.

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Today's Theme

In our first reading, we dramatically see the difference between recognizing Jesus as the vine and we are the branches. Saul, who would be renamed St. Paul, had recognized that he was headed toward being the branch to be removed from the vine and hung upon the wall to dry as firewood. St. Paul sees Jesus as the one everyone should recognize as the Son of God. St. Paul, though, did not do that on his own. Even after the enlightenment that St. Paul underwent, he still needed Barnabas to help him accomplish what it was St. Paul felt compelled to do.

When we see that the Jesus is the Truth, we then possess the Good News that we must share with others. Just as St. Paul saw the Good News – the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus – as something too good to keep to himself, we too must see Jesus as our nourishment in the providing us the strength to share that same Good News with others.

Pay particular attention to the last verse of our first reading: “The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.” The Church was at peace. Why? Because they came to understand that what they needed in life was Jesus because He is the way they will accomplish all they needed or wanted. Peace is what Jesus spoke of when he appeared to the Apostles in the room after His resurrection. Peace opens our minds to the will of God.

Then reference the words of John in our second reading: “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth…if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.”

Yes, life is that simple. Not easy, but that simple: Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When we believe that in our hearts, we will know and be at peace that He is the vine and we are HIS branches.

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Theme in our Life Today

Living the words of Jesus in the gospel this week requires a major step in our lives. Everything in our faith life, in the entirety of our lives, depends on one declaratory statement: “Yes Jesus, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Making that declaratory statement nourishes us as His branches on the vine.

There are peaceful consequences in that statement, but also challenges. We must let go of our preconceived notions of how we individually believe the world should operate. It sometimes means we can’t be the “nice person” as Bishop Sheen used to reference. By that, Bishop Sheen meant that sometimes when we want to live as the branches on the vine of Jesus we must tell others that some actions or beliefs simply do not follow the commandments of Jesus.

There is a lot going against Christians these days, frankly there always has been but with mass media we know about it more quickly. We must act as St. Paul and Barnabas did in our first reading – we must be bold in our words and actions….not reckless but bold. We must not be afraid to say something is just plain wrong. Some actions are just directly counter to the will of God.

Keeping ourselves aligned with the two great commandments of Jesus that St. John referenced means we must continually learn our faith and how we might live our lives in congruence with those commandments.

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Prepare for Sunday

1. Be honest with yourself…do you trust the teachings of our Church?

2. Be honest…do you know what the Church teaches about living in today’s world…or do you let social media, the news media, sports figures, and Hollywood-types tell you what our Church teaches?

3. There is a copy of the Catechism in the Fr. Ernie Library in the narthex…go explore!

You are deeply loved by a God who wants you to smile…so smile at Him today!

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