Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and you're listening to Season 4, Episode 17 for the Fifth Sunday of Easter: May 2, 2021. Our Gospel reading is from John, Chapter 15, verses 1-8:
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“God is the Vine” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
When a person begins to realize and take seriously the fact that they are part of God's bigger tree of life, then the essence of their life begins to take on greater depth and meaning. Once we realize that God has intimately attached us to the very vine of himself, and that the life that I have come to know and treasure cannot be lived apart from that vine, then how I see the world, how I see my brothers and sisters, how I see myself all takes on a different character. It all begins to be transformed. And in the process of that transformation, our thoughts, what comes out of our mouths and our deeds also begin to change. And it becomes not so much a task of doing what the Gospel calls us to do: the falling into the life of the Gospel, and having that life flow naturally from the essence of who we are.
It is when we begin to see that any good that we can accomplish or any good that we can do can only be done by the grace of God, then our thoughts and our words, and our actions take on greater power, depth and meaning.
The challenge and the difficulty for us, however, is processing and dealing with all that life presents to us. We don't always remember that we are intimately a part of God, and that that relationship is there to help us negotiate the things of this world. We often find ourselves getting tripped up by life's demands.
When we step back and we look at all of history from the time human beings first started their journey on this earth, every generation, one to the next, has had their challenges to endure. They've all had those things that would bring them disappointment and fear. Those things that could easily upset their life of faith and take them off- kilter. And while the things that human beings have had to cope with and deal with through all of the centuries have changed dramatically, as our challenges today are certainly not the same as they were in the 12th century, they still are significant, one to the next. And the one thing that has not changed during the course of all that time is the very essence and presence of God that has remained unchanging generation to generation.
As we look at our lives and as we consider those things we are dealing with at the present moment, perhaps some of us are dealing with the loss of a loved one, illness suffering. Perhaps we're encountering the aging of our bodies, and having difficulty grasping and encountering our mortality. Perhaps as we look out at our world and we look at all of the confusion and the turmoil, the violence, the unsettling structures and systems that are prevalent one corner of the world to the other, the poverty, the hurt, and the want we find ourselves getting immersed in all of the negative energy that abounds around us. We could easily find ourselves falling into fear, into worry, anxiety.
We can find ourselves becoming unsettled, perhaps disappointed, and even falling into despair, losing a sense of the importance of faith, and what it can do to our life as we know it. And so it's important to have a vision, not only of where we are, but where we can become, as children who are intimately attached to the vine of their loving God.
St. John of the Cross, who was a phenomenal spiritual master, has some words to share with us that can help give us an ideal, a vision, of what we may hope to achieve as we journey through our spiritual lives. Spiritual lives that are always in the process of becoming and growing. Experiences of dying and rising, of learning and growing, of falling, but also getting back up again, and allowing God to bring us where God can allow us to be.
And so St. John tells us: strive to preserve your heart in peace and let no event in the world disturb you. Reflect that all must come to an end. Keep spiritually tranquil in a loving, attentiveness to God. And when you must speak, do so from that same place of calm and peace.
I think all of us in our life of faith want to be able to bring that quality of assurance and certitude and trust to whatever is happening around us. We want to be able to be people of peace and operate on that more even keel, where less bothers us and more causes us to rejoice. And so St. John of the Cross is truly onto something in his words today: strive to preserve your heart in peace. That peace that comes from understanding and knowing that in all of the events of life, God is with us, and that once we realize that we have that abiding presence at the base of who we are, then we will know the peace that comes from that trusted assurance. And as we go about the business of our lives, and as we encounter the disappointments and the challenges that will inevitably be a part of our life experience, they won't impact us and catch us off guard as much as they sometimes may be able to do.
And then the one we have the most difficulty with is reflect that all will come to an end. We spend so much time trying to preserve the particulars of our lives, and we get so caught up in the superficialities that abound, the things that we've created, the things that we have fashioned, the things that we think we need in order to be happy and successful.
And we fail to realize that all will come to an end; that none of this is meant to be permanent, not even the essence of our physical selves. The only thing that is permanent is God himself and the eternity that awaits us. That's where our treasure lies; that's where our security is to be found; and that's where our sustained sustenance is to be drawn from.
Keep spiritually tranquil in a loving attentiveness to God. We all struggle trying to find God's presence in our life. And well, we should. But it's not always necessary to have God figured out as much as it is to humbly place ourselves in that presence, and be attentive to the fact that God is the essence of our life, of all human life and lovingly seek that presence with all our fervor and might.
And when we do so, what comes out of our mouth will then reflect that same calm and peace that has been cultivated in our hearts. And as a result, the Gospel will be spread without our even perhaps knowing it.
Grafted to the vine, our thoughts, our words, and our actions all can flow into and fall into the Gospel, and that message of peace of reconciliation, of faith, hope and love can be brought to a world that so desperately needs to receive that message.
So as we go back into the challenges of life this week, may we truly seek that peace that comes from the certain knowledge that God is with us and all as well.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.