Bear Fruit - Our Love is not to be just words or mere talk

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

A single hexagonal nut holds the whirling rotors of a helicopter in place. That nut is called the ‘Jesus nut.’ (Illustrated Sunday Homilies Year B Series II by Mark Link S.J. published by Tabor Publishing) That reminds me of our Gospel today (John 15:1-8) where Jesus describes himself as the true vine and we are the branches feeding from the vine. Just as the ‘Jesus nut’ is the center of the rotary blades holding them together, Jesus is the center of our lives holding us together. We are branches all around Jesus the vine. We were grafted onto the vine, Jesus, on the day we were baptized. We draw the sap from Jesus to give us the energy to live Christian lives. We draw this sap from Jesus when we pray, when we gather here every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist, every time we receive the sacraments, every time we read the Bible. During this year, named the Year of the Rosary by Pope John Paul II (Oct 2002-Oct 2003), we make a special effort at praying the Rosary. In the Gospel today Jesus asks us to make our home in him. The Eucharist, the sacraments, the Bible, the Rosary are just some of the ways in which we make our home in Jesus. There are many seductions and distractions in our world also inviting us to make our home in them but if we do our branch will wither and we will not bear fruit. There are many voices in the world telling us to eat the apple from the tree and then we will have life and all will be well. But after eating the apple we discover that we are worse and even more unhappy. So we make our home in Jesus. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life and when we make our home in him we bear fruit. Jesus said,

“A branch cannot bear fruit all by itself
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)

It is not just a question of making our home in Jesus because it feels good. A branch which is connected to the vine bears fruit, grapes. Jesus asks us to bear fruit. He says in the Gospel,

“Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears much fruit,
for cut off from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

In our second reading John also says we are to bear fruit as he says,

“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk,
but something real and active;
only by this can we be certain
that we are the children of the truth…” (1 John 3:18-19)

Are we bearing fruit for the kingdom of God? Is our Christian love real and active, something that inspires others, or is it just words and mere talk? Last weekend (2003) I was speaking with someone who works in a Catholic high school in England. He was reared an Anglican but decided to become a Catholic after getting the job in the Catholic school. I asked him what made him decide to become a Catholic. He said it was the quality of life lived by the faculty and staff in the school. The way they live their lives impressed him so much that he decided to become Catholic also. Now his wife is also in the process of initiation into the Catholic Church. The faculty and staff in that school have fulfilled the words of Jesus,

“Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears much fruit” (John 15:5)

and they have fulfilled the words of John in our second reading,

“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk,
but something real and active;
only by this can we be certain
that we are the children of the truth…” (1 John 3:18-19)

In our first reading (Acts 9:26-31), Barnabas also bears fruit and shows a Christian love that is not just words or mere talk but something real and active when the Church in Jerusalem doubted the genuineness of Paul’s conversion and Barnabas introduced Paul to them assuring them of his conversion. (Some years later (Acts 11:25-26) Barnabas would again introduce Paul to the Church, this time in Antioch from where Paul would begin his preaching journeys. We all know what a difference Paul made to the Church. And it was Barnabas who prepared the way for Paul.) So what a difference it makes to the whole Church when we bear fruit and love with a Christian love that is real and active and not just words or mere talk.

Just as the Jesus nut is the center of the helicopter rotary blades holding them together, Jesus is the center of our lives holding us together. Jesus asks us to make our home in him so that we can bear fruit. Are we bearing fruit for the kingdom of God? Is our Christian love real and active or just words and mere talk?

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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