5th Sunday in Easter – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: April 29, 2018
We live in a time when people do church shopping, even religion shopping. Searching around for a church that suits them. There is a story of a man who had just moved into a city and he began to try out different churches to see which one would suit him. He was about to give up trying when he dropped into one church just as the preacher said. “We have left undone the things we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. We are all sinners.” The man slipped into a pew with a sigh of relief saying to himself. “Thank goodness, I have found my crowd at last.”
We live in a society that often has an extremely individualistic world view which opposes a Catholic worldview of communion. Many will say, I believe in God but I do not need the church.
But, Jesus and the Church go together. They cannot be separated. Jesus uses the image of a vine and branches. We are to remain connected to the vine, Jesus Christ. Jesus and the Church are intimately connected, for the Church is the body of Christ. (Note: show a branch taken from the ground near a tree. It is now dry and dead. Because it was separated from the tree, its source of life)
So, it is with us when we separate ourselves from the church. For the church, as the body of Christ, keeps us connected to Jesus the true vine who nourishes us. We abide in Jesus when we also continue to abide in the church, the body of Christ. For this reason, St. Teresa of Avila said: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.”
The difficulty for us is that the church is both a divine and human mystery. As the body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit, it is a divine mystery, the plan of God. But, this church is also a human reality. It is a human institution that exists within human history. So, it has all the flaws, weaknesses, failings, sinfulness of any human institution. This is why we speak of a pilgrim church, it is still on the way and constantly in need of reform.
A mature Christian faith requires that we remain connected to this church even while facing its sometimes messy human reality very honestly and openly. While seeing the failings of the church openly, we need to remain connected to this church which keeps us united to Jesus the true vine and allows the grace of Jesus to flow to us. We are called not to individualism but to communion, abiding in Jesus within the body of Christ, the church.
This church, weak and human, frustrating at times. It is a pilgrim Church on the way. It is also our connection to the true vine, Jesus. Jesus and the Church go together. Abiding in the Church allows us to abide in Jesus, remaining spiritually alive and living fully in this life as pilgrims on the way to heaven.