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Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…. In Him was life.
There was a time when Lucy came up to Charlie Brown… and.. with a look of concern on her face she says, "Sometimes, I feel we are not communicating: You, Charlie Brown, are a foul ball in the line drive of life. You’re often in the shadow of your own goal post, you’re a miscue. You‘re 3 putts on the 18th green. You are a 7-10 split in the 10th frame. You have dropped a rod and reel in the lake of life. You’re a missed free throw. You’re a shacked 9-iron, a called 3rd strike, a bug on the windshield of life! Do you understand? Have I made myself clear?"… In Him.. In Jesus is life, but have you ever notice that the world – and loving concerned “friends” – have this way of sucking that life right out of you.
For you fans of Harry Potter.. it’s a bit like having your own personal Dementor hanging around. Remus Lupin… a werewolf and one of Harry’s teachers describes a Dementor like this, "Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself...soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."
Sometimes it is the Lucys of the world that are the Dementors.. other times it can be a job / boss.. They even show up in the forms of late night phone calls.. or knocks at the door. I even had a Dementor or two show up in the form of a girlfriend, but that’s a different sermon. However, what I’ve discovered is that my worst Dementor lives with me all the time – No, it’s not Robyn – it lives in here.. inside me.
I’m fairly certain we all have those dark days when nothing seems to be right with the world, but we wake up the following morning to discover that the sun has in fact risen and things are going to be OK. For others, there is that depression that seems to hang on for days and weeks at a time that is often brought on by some traumatic experience or just a chemical imbalance and we have to learn to manage that as well.. but the Dementor that gets the best of me is the one that shows up when I am cut off from God. And I’m cut off not because of something God has done, but because of what I have NOT done… and what I have not done.. is to abide in Him. I have been cut off from Him not by someone else’s doings, not by the worlds, but by my own. As the confession from St. Augustine’s Prayer Book reads, “by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault.”… I’ve done this to myself.
And at times like this I am with Paul who writes… I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
St. Josemaria Escriva writes, “It is hard to read in the holy Gospel that question of Pilate’s: ‘Whom do you wish that I release to you, Barabbas or Jesus, who is called the Christ?’ But it is more painful to hear the answer: ‘Barabbas!’… And it is more terrible still when I realize that very often—when I have wandered away—I, too, have said, ‘Barabbas!” And I’ve added, ‘Christ?... Crucify him!’”
It is true.. No amount of darkness can extinguish the light of a single candle, but the further we wander into the darkness.. away from that light.. the harder it is to see, until it is at such a great distance that we can no longer discern it from its surroundings. The less we abide in Christ, the more we desire the things of the world - the more we call for the freedom of Barabbas.. and so desperately want to put Christ away, if for no other reason but to ease the torment of our souls.. because you see, once you have tasted the goodness of God, your soul can never be satisfied with anything else.. and as you wander further and further away, your soul desires to return, but your flesh has its own mind, so your soul and your flesh are tearing at one another. The soul desires to return to God, so the flesh would rather destroy Jesus than be as tormented as it is.
In Him is life.. In Jesus is life, but when we fail to abide in Him, we no longer have access to that life. When we fail to have access to that life.. then the choices we make through our own most grievous fault drain us of the life we had. Thomas a Kempis writes, For a little reward men make a long journey; for eternal life many will scarce lift a foot once from the ground. Mean reward is sought after; for a single piece of money sometimes there is shameful striving; for a thing which is vain and for a trifling promise, men shrink not from toiling day and night.”.. but that is not true for you… You are a child of God.. You are one who walks in the light… you are one who abides in Him.
Some of you are probably familiar with My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers… Would you like to know why I through him across the room on more than one occasion? It was because I felt he always did what I just did. Tell me to do something like, “Abide in Christ,” but not tell me how.. not tell me what that means – Well, so that you won’t throw me across the room here’s how… from 1 John 2, “We know that we have come to know him [… to abide in him…] if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to abide in him must live as Jesus did…. How do you abide in Christ: Simple… you live as Jesus did.
Thank you Fr. John for that very helpful piece of advice… I’ll run right out and start living as Jesus did right after I throw YOU across the room. If I could live as Jesus lived, then I wouldn’t have this problem in the first place! You just said it a minute ago – or ten minutes ago because this is a really long sermon - Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Alleluia, Christ is Risen… Beloved, we are an Easter people. We don’t live in the shadow of death. We live in the glorious light of the resurrection. It is not the light of a single candle shining in the darkness that we follow… It is the light of the very Son of God – the Risen Lord. The One who abides in you is greater than the one who abides in this world. You can live as Jesus lived, because Jesus lives in you…. Abide in Jesus as He abides in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Jesus. I am the vine, you are the branches. … Abide in me as I abide in you.
Let us Pray… O Lord, our God, You called Your people to be Your Church. As they gather together in Your Name, may they love, honour, and follow Your Son to eternal life in the Kingdom He promised. Let their worship always be sincere, and help them to find Your saving Love in the Church and its Sacraments. Fill with the Spirit of Christ those whom You call to live in the midst of the world and its concern. Help them by their work on earth to build up Your eternal Kingdom. May they be effective witnesses to the Truth of the Gospel and make Your Church a living presence in the midst of the world. Increase the gifts You have given Your Church that Your faithful people may continue to grow in holiness and in imitation of Your Beloved Son. Amen.