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Fifth Sunday of Easter

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples." (Jn. 15:1-8)

On reading the CBCP News article dated Jan. 30, 2021, Pope Francis made two comments on the role of the catechists and their responsibility in transmitting the faith. Pope Francis said, "catechists have the vital responsibility of leading others to a personal encounter with Jesus through prayer, the sacraments, and Scripture." The Pope also said, "There is no true catechesis without the testimony of men and women in flesh and blood. Who among us does not remember at least one of his catechists? I do. I remember the nun who prepared me for my First Communion and was so good to me."

These two observations reflect two aspects of our gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Our reading identifies Jesus as the true vine and the Father as the vine grower. John's gospel reminds us that we must know both the true vine and the vine grower to bear fruit as disciples.

Interestingly though, John described Jesus as the true vine. Is John insinuating that other vines are falsely perpetrating a fraud? Who else would claim to be the truth? The only one I can think of is Satan, who John alluded to earlier in this gospel. "You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies" (Jn. 8:44). Yes, Jesus is the true vine, who never lies; his Father is the vine grower.

We also need to acknowledge the vine grower in our lives. The Father, the vine grower, removes branches, behaviors which produce no fruit. Purposely, the vine grower's actions assist us in staying close to the true vine, the word of truth. St. Paul provides us with a list of immoral behaviors the vine grower will remove from us to be disciples, "immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, [and] orgies. ... I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19-22). The vine grower knows best which branches to cut and vines to prune.

Therefore, Pope Francis's words to us, catechists, preachers, deacons, and anyone else who follows Christ, are that we have a tremendous responsibility. We must lead others to an encounter with the true vine, Jesus. As followers or disciples of Christ, we testify to Jesus' words and not a natural vine. Yes, Catholics must testify through prayer, the sacraments, and the scriptures.

We lead everyone to the truth that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and Life so that we will "remain in [Jesus] and [Jesus'] words remain in [us]." And then, at the end of the day, as disciples of Jesus, we can "ask for whatever [we] want and it will be done for [us]. By this is [our] Father glorified, that [we] bear much fruit and become [Jesus'] disciples" (Jn. 15:7-8).

Let us pray, "Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine,/ the stock your right hand has planted, and the son [and daughters whom you made strong for yourself" (Ps. 80:15-16). Take away any branches that fail to give you glory and prune any vine that gives false praise. I want to be connected to the true vine, Jesus. Lord hear our prayer.

Authored: Evangelist Michael Howard, MACS

Pope Francis encourages catechists to lead others to a personal encounter with Jesus

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