“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 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.’” (John 15:1, 4-5)
May 3, 2015
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“A farmer grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a Gold medal. One year, a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. ‘How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?’ the reporter asked. ‘Why sir,’ said the farmer, ‘didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.’
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“So it is with our lives. Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all. Call it power of collectivity. Call it a principle of success. Call it a law of life. The fact is, none of us truly wins until we all win.” (Original source unknown)
We’re all connected, all walking homeward together on these earthly roads. It’s something we’ve always known, a truth so deep, so holy. Yet we hear regular reports of those who would deny this most basic human tenet. Consider the beheading of Christians by Islamic extremists or the gassing of Jews by Christians during the Holocaust. Yes, history offers clear evidence: We have it in us to live in sinful isolation, our relationships fractured, our lives ruptured.
We’re all connected, all walking homeward together on these earthly roads. And while we may bumble along avoiding the potholes as best we can, yet we have heavenly assistance to guide us. Indeed, we have the footsteps of Jesus to follow, his words to direct and inspire us, his promise of what’s ahead to spur us on. Sure, there are potholes ahead yet to be negotiated, fearsome death to be dealt with. But then—how can we call it?—More, Better, Eternal…
In the gospel passage we hear today, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 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.’” (John 15:1, 4-5)
It’s the truth we’ve always known. We came to this earth by the hand of God and return to God when earth’s journey is ended. We are ever and only God’s good creation, ever and only sister and brother to one another. But we tend to forget. Then do powerful messengers, surely sent from above, call us back to the truth. Let a recently published story serve to illustrate:
“Desiree Andrews is a cheerleader at Lincoln Middle School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She’s in eighth grade and has Down syndrome. Last year, Andrews was reportedly bullied by some kids in the stands during a boys’ basketball game. But she did not have to bear the harassment alone. A few of the players on the basketball team immediately took a stand against the bullies, walking off the court during a time-out to tell them off.
“One of the kids stepped up and said, ‘Don’t mess with her.’ Then all of the guys got together to show her support. The players involved in the intervention decided to step in because the bullies’ words made them mad. ‘It’s not fair when other people get treated wrong, because we’re all the same. We’re all created the same. God made us the same way,’ [one] basketball player told the news [media].
“The boys’ show of support was reportedly the start of a marvelous friendship. Now, Andrews never walks to class alone and is always involved in the introduction of the starting lineup for the boys basketball team. Lincoln Middle School also renamed their gym ‘D’s House’ in her honor.
“The teens’ support has been a godsend, Andrews’ dad told the news [media]. ‘Those boys, I tried to talk to them in person, but I couldn’t keep the tears back.’”
These kids knew it intuitively: We’re all connected, all walking homeward together on these earthly roads. And though they might well have been intimidated by loud bullies proclaiming otherwise, they stepped out to challenge the—what?—sin. Yes, they tackled sin. That’s the simple truth of it.
Which, of course, leaves us all wondering whether we have the strength to do the same. I know it’s in me to be a name-calling bully. I also know it’s in me to be an advocate for an unpopular person or cause. Maybe even a loud-mouthed vocal advocate! I know I can do it, but will I? Dare I?
Jesus reminds us today that we’re all connected to him and to one another, all of us walking homeward together on these earthly roads. As we struggle along, we are further reminded, “Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches.” And, at the last, when we arrive just this side of the Pearly Gates, we remember the divine admonition, “None of us truly wins until we all win.”