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from fathers desk

My Dear Family,

Is it just a euphemism to speak about us like a family? During liturgy, when we say “friends in Christ” or “sisters and brothers,” are we just being nice? No, not exactly. But the question helps us to ask just how we are connected. Through Baptism, we have become children of God and members of the Body of Christ, the Church. This week in the Gospel Jesus uses a beautiful analogy to help us see how we are connected. He teaches: “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

Connection is so important these days. We learned long ago (in the pandemic) that screens are a poor alternative to real face-to-face communication. Granted, 20 years ago, the best we could manage was dial-up internet on the phone line. Remember  that sound? The cool noises the modem would make and then you were probably connected via AOL and the phrase “You’ve Got Mail!” The Instant Messenger program could be considered, I guess, the first version of WhatsApp or another messenger platform. Now, all this and more, even video conferencing, is available on our phones. Yet, for all the blessings of technology, we acknowledge that nothing takes the place of real human connection. Maybe with the advent of VR we might move in the direction of Ready Player  One , but I doubt that anything will ever feel like the sun on our faces or the smile of a friend.

Jesus teaches us that those who belong to Christ and his Church through the grace of Baptism are truly connected to him and through him to God our Father. Saint John in his first letter stresses that we are the children of God by virtue of adoption through Baptism and the gift of Faith. Today Jesus admonishes the children of God to “remain in me, as I remain in you.” He makes us aware that connection is paramount for fruitfulness. A branch cut from the vine is worthless; it is only good for the fire.

I can think of no better way to stay connected to Christ Jesus than to receive him in the Holy Eucharist, not a symbol but truly the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. Keeping with the vine analogy, we might call the eucharist the sap that connects the vine with the branches. The analogy is imperfect for sure, but those who stray from the eucharistic table, those who no longer partake of the Bread of Life, are like withered branches on a healthy vine. They are ready to be cut off and cast into the fire. And if they stay on the vine, as a good vinedresser knows, they are likely to invite pests and rot to enter the healthy vine.

Through our participation in the life of Mother Church, we are not only connected to the Son and the Father, we are also connected to each other. Through the vine, all the branches are connected. This truth is perhaps more evident though another scriptural motif. Peter encourages the early Church “ living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood…” (1 Pt  2:5 ) Connected together, the members make up the Church, the building of God, not a structure made with stones or brick, but an edifice constructed through the stones of our lives of Faith. The Church is a living structure. The insight reminds me of another, often credited to Henri de Lubac. He taught that, “The Eucharist makes the Church,” meaning that it is really Christ Jesus in the holy Eucharist that knits together the Church, the Body of Christ. Not dissimilar to the vine and branches, no?

This week, let's work on our connections: to Christ Jesus, to our fellow members, to the greater human community.

Yours in the Lord,
Fr. Wilson