“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
This Palm Sunday’s second reading (Philippians 2:5-11), speaks of the “self-emptying”
of the Son of God
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.
Saint Paul invites us to “let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus.” In
other words, in a society where so many people want to be “social media influencers”
and famous, we are invited to follow a different path, that of Christ, in unity with Him.
We are invited to be humble, which means letting God be big and great in our lives,
taking a back seat to Him Who knows all things and holds us safely in the palm of His
Saint Augustine (+430) reminds us that “one cannot attain to love except through
humility” and “one cannot reach the kingdom of Heaven except by humility.”
Yours in Christ,
This Sunday’s second reading (Hebrews 5:5-10) reveals the intimacy
between the Son and the Father. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up
prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…and he was heard
because of his reverent submission.” By grace, we share in such intimacy.
Fred Craddock, Jr. (+2015), originally from rural Tennessee, was a
Professor of Preaching at Emory University in Atlanta and an ordained minister in
the Disciples of Christ Church. His storytelling is unique and intriguing. Here is
one very short story that, for me, speaks to divine intimacy. Indeed, in giving us
the Our Father, Jesus invites us to pray with Him.
I remember Mrs. Foster—you don’t know Mrs. Foster—when
her mother was dying of cancer, and Mrs. Foster wanted me to come
to the house and have prayer and scripture with her mother, which I
did. When I got to the house, she handed me a Lutheran prayer book
in German. I said, “I thought your mother was United Methodist?”
She said, “She was. She married my father, who was
Methodist, and they were together in the church for over 40 years.”
I said, “What’s this?”
And she said, “My mother came from the old country when
she was a teenager. She’s from Germany, and it would mean a lot to
her if you would read the Lord’s prayer in German.”
I read her the Lord’s prayer in German, and that dying woman
mouthed the words and smiled.
(From Craddock Stories, 2001, Chalice Press, St. Louis, MO)
Fellow Lenten pilgrim with you,
Mother Teresa (of Calcutta, +1997) says, “Joy is a net of love by which we catch
souls”. May her words echo in a special way this coming Sunday, which is known to
many as Laetare Sunday. Laetare Sunday, always the fourth, or middle, Sunday of
Lent is so called from the first words of the Introit (opening verse) at Mass,
“Laetare Jerusalem” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”). It is sometimes called Rose Sunday
(referring to the color for the day).
On this day, the vestments are indeed rose in color. Rose includes the violet of penance
and the white of Easter, of the victory of divine love. In this, rose captures the “not yet
and already” of our Christian pilgrimage. We are on a journey, and have not fully arrived
at our destination, which is perfect oneness with God in love. And, yet, we are held by
God already, in love. Another (Saint) Thérèse (of Lisieux, +1897) expresses this
unbelievably well in her autobiography, Story of a Soul. She so believes in the already
that, when asked about Heaven, she responds, “I do not know what more I could
have in Heaven, except that I shall see God. As for being with Him, I am always
that, even here on earth.”
Our life as disciples of Christ is a life of joy—not bubbly emotional joy, but deep, quiet
joy—the joy of God. Such joy is ours for the experiencing, even in the midst of great
challenge. But it must be shared. Do we share the joy of God with those around us?
As we continue our Lenten journey, let us hold onto the One Who holds us, bearing in
mind the words of St. Augustine (+430):
In the house of God there is never ending festival; the angel choir makes
eternal holiday; the presence of God's face gives joy that never fails.
Yours in the joy of God,
Our Lenten journey is one to deeper relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ, who
gives Himself to us. He gives Himself in an “extreme” way on the Cross. From
the outside, the Cross is tragedy. From the inside, from the divine vantage point,
because it is divine Love poured forth, the Cross is power and wisdom. St. Paul
says this in this Sunday’s second reading (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Let us pray
for an increase in faith, that we might truly
proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness
to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
I offer you three quotes about the Cross, for your Lenten meditation:
God created through love and for love. God did not create anything except
love itself, and the means to love. He created love in all its forms. He
created beings capable of love from all possible distances. Because no
other could do it, he himself went to the greatest possible distance, the
infinite distance. This infinite distance between God and God, this supreme
tearing apart, this agony beyond all others, this marvel of love, is the
Simone Weil (+1943), French social activist and mystic
How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the
cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is
wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not
death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of
paradise, but opens the way for our return.
St. Theodore the Studite (+826), Byzantine Greek monk
There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no
enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear
that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with
us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the
Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection.
This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.
Pope John Paul II
Journeying with you to deeper relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ,