BREAKING OPEN THE WORD
The Ministry entrusted to me by virtue of Ordination, is to break open the Word. I am not a writer as such, I am a proclaimer of God’s Word. Therefore the style of my realhomilie is a preaching style. I do apologise for any typos…they are so had to find at times……. I pray that God’s Word finds a home in you, and that your response to God’s constant invitations, will be like a burning fire within you, which cannot be contained.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser. John 15:1-8.
Dear One and All,
This week’s Gospel carries on from last week, where Jesus said that he is the Good Shepherd, and the sheep belong to him, and it is the Good Shepherd who is committed to his flock, and in turn the sheep know that they belong to the sheepfold. So, just as last week’s Gospel was about the relationship between the Shepherd and the sheep, this week we see a deeper element in God’s relationship with us, we actually can explore the metaphorical meaning of Vine, branches, pruning and fruit. What is it that goes through the vine, into the branches, and then producing the fruit? It might have something to do with God’s Wisdom!
It is good for us to be aware that the image of the Vineyard and Vinedresser goes right back into the Old Testament. Metaphorically, the vine is ‘Isra-el’ (Children of God) let’s have a look at Psalm 80:8-9 ‘there was a vine: you uprooted it from Egypt; to plant it, you drove out other nations, you cleared a space where it could grow, and it took root and filled the whole country’. However, when the Word of God was addressed to Jeremiah we see that the Vine needed to repent and undergo a (metanoia) transformation…..Jeremiah 2: 21, As the Lord God says through His prophet, ‘Yet, I had planted you, a choice vine, a shoot of soundest stock. How is it you have become a degenerate plant?’
So, we see that the metaphor of the Vine, the bearing of fruit, the pruning, and the relationship to the vinedresser as the Lord God, goes back a long way in the corporate mind of our ancestors in faith. In Jesus, the metaphor takes on a much stronger sense of relationship. Let’s have a look at today’s Gospel from St. John Chapter 15:1-8.
According to the Johannine community, Jesus begins this discourse by stating: ‘I am’ the true vine’. This is a deliberate choice of words for a Greek speaking audience, and a Greek thinking community. ‘I am’ indicates that Jesus embodies the Divine Name of the Lord God of Israel. In short, Jesus is the human face of the Father. Being mindful of the History in the Old Testament about the Vine as Israel, and the Vinedresser as Adonai …the Lord God, its overall meaning takes on a dramatic new nuance when Jesus claims to be the ‘I am’. However, this claim is directed to the Resurrected Christ, as part of the 4th Gospel’s intention in being didactic to its hearers. Remember the manifestation of the Divine Name in the Book of Exodus. ‘I am who am’ said the Angel of the Lord to Moses’
The impact of the opening words would have been stunning for the listeners and readers of the Fourth Gospel. Jesus of Nazareth, Crucified, and re breathed into Him by The Father; the breath of new life awakened in Jesus, was in fact The Christ of God! Let’s remember that the Good News here is for Catechetical and Missionary purposes. The Gospel of its very nature is didactic; it has the ‘Spirit’s breath and zest within it, to empower the listening community, to be the Living Christ, the Church, the New Israel if they respond wholeheartedly.
Immediately, we are aware of the closeness of the Father to the Vine….Jesus Himself, and we ourselves are the Vine. Now, we need to look at what is it that enables the Vinedresser to see and know what branches are to be cut off, when it should be pruned, and where on the Vine should this take place? It would seem that Wisdom (Sophia) within God, is the knowledge of how to do things, and is at the very essence and core of the Godhead. It seems that this knowledge lies behind the greatest of all works; creation is the highest of all wisdom, with humankind as the crown. Deep within the Vines core is a Divine impetus, which enables humankind to know God! I hope that this is not getting too deep….if so, it might be an idea to get a Coffee, or a strong cup of Irish breakfast tea, some warm scones with strawberry Jam and King Island Cream or some Raisin toast.( for our overseas readers, King Island in in Bass Strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania…it’s Cream is the 8th Wonder of the World) Finally, as we try to understand what Biblical Wisdom is, we cannot go past this small and telling passage from the Book of Wisdom in the Old Testament Chapter 7:22-26…..Let’s be mindful that here, Wisdom is spoken of in the feminine form……yes, a feminine attribute of the inner life, and outward manifestation of the Lord God! This does not mean that God is female……God is the total composition of male and female, but even this statement is very limiting to God. We just cannot understand the total fullness of the Godhead! Now, before I get side tracked, as our Dog Rosie is licking my feet and wanting a biscuit; let’s go straight to the Book of Wisdom.
Ukrainian (Kyiv) Icon, Sophia, the Holy Wisdom, 1812. Cf. Proverbs 9:1.
IN PRAISE OF WISDOM: 7:22-26
22. For within her is a spirit intelligent, holy, Unique, manifold, subtle, active, incisive, unsullied, lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp,
23. Irresistible, beneficent, loving to humankind, steadfast, dependable, unperturbed, almighty, all-surveying, penetrating all intelligent, pure and most subtle spirits;
24. For Wisdom is quicker to move that any motion; she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
25. She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her.
26. She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of all goodness.
Well, what did you think of that? For me, it is one of the most outstanding passages in the Old Testament, and hence we can now move into an understanding of the Wisdom that travels unseen through the Vine and the branches, and finally into the fruit! At this point we might need to have a flash back to our Form 6 days, for us oldies, and year 12’s…..since then. Let’s have a quick update on what happens in side the structure of plants. From Scientific America, we read: “Water is often the most limiting factor to plant growth. Therefore, plants have developed an effective system to absorb, translocate, store and utilize water. To understand water transport in plants, one first needs to understand the plants’ plumbing. Plants contain a vast network of conduits, which consists of xylem and phloem tissues. This pathway of water and nutrient transport can be compared with the vascular system that transports blood throughout the human body. Like the vascular system in people, the xylem and phloem tissues extend throughout the plant. These conducting tissues start in the roots and transect up through the trunks of trees, separating off into the branches and then diverging even further into every leaf.”
Now, with our revised understanding of what goes on, and how, in plants and vines, let’s substitute the biological components of xylem and phloem, together with life giving nutrients/water for God’s Wisdom! (Sophia)
Icon of Sophia from St George Church in Vologda: Christ is represented above her head (16th century)
Back to the Gospel passage: – The purpose of the Vine is to produce fruit, it is Divine Wisdom which knows what branch to cut away that bears no fruit. Then with the branches that do produce fruit, Divine Wisdom prunes! Why? To produce even more fruit. In the Gospel, we hear Jesus saying that it is The Word, which prunes us………but it is up to us to LISTEN to the Word, so that we can assist in the pruning by the way our lifestyle change, our deepening of relationships, the renewal of values, and our quest for unconditional love and forgiveness to be all part of the transformation, caused by pruning.. A (metanoia) (change of heart) most times needs to happen….here the Greek word means stand on one’s hands, and re look at the world in a new way!
Jesus says, ‘make your home in me, as I make mine in you.’ Now, everyone loves to be ‘at home’ it is the place where we can be ourselves, and not have to stand on airs and graces. It is our place! When visitors come to our house, we often say, ‘please make yourself at home….’ Kick off your shoes and relax. Jesus wants us to kick off our shoes and relax, and receive the hospitality of ‘new life’ and Eucharist in His presence.
Jesus says that unless we be ourselves and share in the ‘at-home-ness’ if there is such a word, we won’t bear boundless amounts of fruit. But we must not fall into the trap that we are the personification of Holy Wisdom! No way; it is through our living of Psalm 50, and the openness to God’s Word, that our ‘foot washer service’ takes place, and God’s Holy Spirit enables it to happen and multiply.
Notice that in the Gospel Jesus says at the beginning of the Passage…’I am the true vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser’ now further on in the passage Jesus says, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’
Finally, Jesus once again makes it clear to us that ‘If you remain in me, and my Words remain in you, you may ask what you will, and you shall get it.’ It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.’ In short, authentic discipleship is the direct bi product of bearing fruit; fruit that will last!
Now, as we have seen clearly, we have been called by the Lord God to be part of the true vine, and to bear fruit, and undergo pruning, what should we do about it? It appears that the consummation of God’s Word is the answer, together with the ‘new life’ which comes about through being contrite people by having Psalm 50 as our foundation.. Like the care of any vineyard, garden or pot plants, that we might have on our front Patio…..they need care! Regular watering, Defender against snails, Sprays against fungus and insects, Nutrients like fertiliser etc, and proper sunlight, and some cutting back from time to time.
We are reminded when to put our car in for Service by the little sticker on the windscreen close to the driver’s seat. If we don’t put our car in for the 40,000 km service, problems can start to arise without us knowing about it…….not until we hit 60,000km that our car is starting to shake, the brakes seem to make a noise like metal upon metal, and it goes on….We who are the Living Body of Christ, need to be ‘on time’ with our spiritual maintenance! I will print Psalm 50, by way of a great Biblical Prayer of Contrition, then I will also add St. Paul’s Hymn to Charity as a check list on our Discipleship life, and finally let’s plant our own little Vegie Garden…..surprise, surprise!
The Gospel today is as deep as the blue sea, but there is room for all people to be part of the Vine, and bear fruit, fruit which will last..
We give thanks to God, our Father, for Jesus, the holy vine. On the vine-press of the cross, he gave us a gift of new wine, and all who drink of it remain in God’s love.
Respectively copied from the Glenstal Bible Missal, 5th Sunday of Easter year B. Page 780.
OUR SPIRITUAL MAINTENANCE CHECK UP
Psalm 50 (Old Testament Act of Contrition)
Have mercy, Lord in your kindness
with compassion blot out my sins, cleanse me from my guilt; wash me white than snow. Lord, have mercy on me.
Create a pure heart in me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence
nor deprive me of your Holy Spirit. Christ have mercy on me.
Open my lips, O Lord, and my voice shall proclaim your praise
Accept my sacrifice: a humbled, contrite heart. Lord, have mercy on me.
A Reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians. In this Reading, St. Paul gives us the tried and true formula of real love.
Be ambitious for the higher gifts and I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them. If I have all the eloquence of men and women or of angles, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are and knowing everything and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains but without love, then I am nothing at all.
If I give away all they possess, piece by piece and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
Now this is the crunch time….put you own name on the line after love……
Love________ is always patient and kind, it is never jealous, love__________ is never boastful or conceited, it is never rude or selfish, it does not take offence, and is not resentful.
Love_________ takes no pleasure in other peoples sin but delights in the truth it is always to ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love_______ does not come to an end.
The result speaks for itself! Let us be pruned by the Word!
Our own spiritual vegie garden.
First, plant four rows of peas.
Next to them plant three rows of Squash.
Then plant lettuce.
Let us be truthful.
Let us be loyal.
Let us be faithful.
Let us love one another.
No garden is complete without turnips.
Turn up for the Community Eucharist.
Turn up for Community Reconciliation Service during Lent and Advent
Turn off the computer, iPad, iPhone or TV to spend 15 mins doing Spiritual maintenance
Turn up for sharing of family life and stories around the Dinner table at home.
Turn up to celebrate the Eucharist with a Parish Community where you find the Lord.
Turn up on time!
Turn off your Mobile ‘phone before you pray with the community!
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Are you looking towards making a Retreat, not too far from Sydney, in an environment which is peaceful and spectacularly beautiful? Then do yourself a favour, and check out this Website of the Benedictine Abbey, Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia. It is the family of the Benedictine Nuns, and their Ministry is prayer, hospitality, and inviting all people to LISTEN and SHARE in God’s Word. www.jamberooabbey.org.au
I can vouch for this place as being ‘holy ground’, I have made many Retreats there, and I am associated with the Abbey as an
Oblate of St. Benedict. Fr Kevin Bede Walsh
realhomilies are for real people!
I have been proclaiming God’s Word for 43 years, and over that time I have heard many people ask for down to earth material that can be applicable in their daily lives in the Homily! People have often said to me when I go to a new Parish, “I hope that you won’t talk too long at the Homily.” I usually say in return that I can’t stand Ministers of the Gospel going on and on and going around in circles 🙂
If you are looking for academic material in my realhomilies, you won’t find it here. You had better Google somewhere else.
When I was in priestly formation many years ago at Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne, Victoria, I was inspired by the Professors who taught us Sacred Scripture. I owe my deepest heartfelt thanks to Frs.Robert Crotty,CP, Jerome Crowe,CP, Angelo O’Hagin OFM and Fr Greg Manly,CP
These men not only inspired a few generations of Students, but they ignited a flame in me, which seeks to be always curious about God’s Word and to hunger for it. It is this appetite and inspiration to proclaim God’s Word that drives me in my senior years to share these realhomilies with you.
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