“I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit”.
Such is Jesus’ revelation in this coming Sunday’s gospel, from John: amazing
One focus of Jesus’ discourse is a mysterious fruit that we must bear and do
bear if we abide in Him. Indeed, the branches that bear no fruit are cut, to
Now, two questions (among many!) arise:
1. How do we abide in Jesus so that we bear fruit?
2. What is the fruit that we are to bear?
Before answering these questions, note the seriousness of such abiding as
suggested in Jesus’ strong statement: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
Now, if I were in an ornery mood (which, of course, is not my style ), I might
respond, “Oh yeah, watch me do something apart from you. I can do Happy Hour
and the lawn and tennis and vacation and...” To which Jesus could respond,
“Alright; but can you do eternal things, like love as I do?”
We abide in Jesus—after having been grace-fully grafted onto Him—by wanting
it. It is a question of desire. But we must keep wanting, because we never fully
arrive. The arrival is called heaven, and we aren’t there yet. We’ll know when we
have arrived! In the meantime, as Saint Augustine says: “The entire Christian
life is in fact an exercise of holy desire”.
The fruit that we are called to bear is that of love for one another. To be more
precise: the fruit is divine love exercised between us. And the more we allow the
love of God in our hearts to flow and to be victorious over anything anti-
love—such as envy, prejudice, or greed, the more rooted we are in Christ’s heart,
Source of this love and, in turn, the more we love one another. It’s an upward
Yours in this love,
The more we encounter our Risen Lord, the more our hearts are transformed. A
transformed heart is a heart that loves more and more generously. St. John, the
“disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 12:26), knows this; hence, his
exhortation: little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth
and action (this Sunday’s second reading, 1 John 3:16-24).
In the light of this, St. Gregory the Great (+604), Pope and patron saint of
musicians and singers, tells us
The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great
things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.
St. Augustine (+430) asks “What does love look like?” In responding, he points
us in the right direction:
It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor
and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear
the sighs and sorrows of humanity. That is what love looks like.
It is only by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that we can love this
generously, as Mother Teresa encourages us to do:
Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give
love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next-door
neighbor... Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and
happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in
your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in
your warm greeting.
Beseeching the Holy Spirit with you,
There is a verse in this coming Sunday’s second reading that is, for me, one of the most
moving in the whole Bible:
Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been
revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him,
for we will see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
Saint John speaks to us as a friend, “writing these things so that our joy may be
complete” (I John 1:4). He reminds us of the deepest reality of who we are. “We are
God's children—to which he adds now”. Right now. At this moment. And, he declares
this unconditionally, to remind us that this is true no matter what: no matter what we
may feeling or not feeling, no matter what difficulty or incredible joy has befallen us.
Indeed, this is by God’s gracious doing. Such “divine filiation” (“the deepest mystery of
the Christian vocation”, as Pope John Paul II says) is sheer gift. And “the gifts of
God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). In other words, we will never cease to God’s
children. We never need worry. We, of course, must choose to live into this vocation…
Saint John also reaffirms the promise of our future final—albeit
mysterious—transformation: “When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will
see him as he is”. “We will see him as he is”—upon our deathbed or at the Second
Coming of Christ. And, when we do, we will be fully transformed. We traditionally speak
of such transformative vision as “beatific” (from the Latin beatificus, meaning “making
happy”). Our God is a supremely happy God, and His only intention is to make us
happy in Him. The happiness begins now and no matter what—increasingly to the
degree that we let go and let God. One day, one eternity, the happiness will be
complete. Our hope is set on this.
Sharing in God’s happiness with you,
Easter continues-let’s not turn the page too quickly! We are given an octave, eight special days and a full forty-day Easter season until Pentecost (which we celebrate on May 23). “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, Therefore, let us keep the feast,” (from first part of the Pascha Nostrum, the initial song of praise in the Anglican Rite for Easter Day in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, still in use today).
In this Sunday’s second reading (John 1:5), it is revealed that “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” Easter is all about Divine light, to which we are drawn, in which we are called to live, which we are called and empowered to share.
This Easter Sunday, April 4, we marked the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., at age 39, a seeker of the light. He famously declared that “darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.” Despite personal or public struggles, he did not relent, because he trusted in the never-failing presence of God, Who “is light.”
Let us, therefore, “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), knowing that, as the Dutch theologian, Erasmus (+1536), says, if we “give light, the darkness will disappear of itself.” This requires, however, a daily choice on our part, especially in our current context of acute societal sensitivity. Let us “give light”, refraining from hasty judgment and from adding to harsh discourse. “Words which do not increase the light of Christ increase the darkness,”
Mother Teresa tells us. Let us GIVE light…
Yours in the light of Christ,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans
Members and Friends of Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes,
Blessings on this holiest of days, when, in a special way, we celebrate our Lord, Who says to each one of us, personally, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever." (Revelation 1:17-18)
Let us take the Easter journey, together, in hope. Let us not worry for a thing. The victory of divine love has been won. Let us not worry for a thing…
Hear the words of Brother Roger Schutte (+2005), of Taizé, the ecumenical monastic community in France:
"On Easter evening, Jesus went with two of his disciples as they walked to the village of Emmaus. They did not realize at the time that he was walking alongside them. We too experience times when we are unable to realize that, by the Holy Spirit, Christ remains at our side. Tirelessly he walks beside us. He illuminates our souls with unexpected light. And we discover that, even though some darkness may remain in us, in each person there is above all the mystery of his presence."
…Christ says to each person, “I love you with everlasting love. I will never leave you. By the Holy Spirit, I will be with you always.”
Blessed to be your Rector,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans