Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the key and heart of the messages of today’s readings is simple, that we are nothing without God, and we cannot survive on our own without God, and detached from God, or if we are cast out of His grace, then we truly have nothing and will perish, no matter how many possessions we have in life. For our Lord is the source of all life, and the source of all the things that made us who we are.
He is the true Vine, from which all the branches came from. In a plant, the true Vine means the roots and the stem, that is the core body of the plant. The branches in the plant, the leaves, the fruits and the flowers are all coming out from that stem, and gain their water and supplies from the bountiful earth from the roots through the stem. And it is with this analogy and perfect comparison that Jesus taught His disciples and the people, what it means to be the disciples of the Lord.
Jesus compared Himself with the Vine, while God the Father as the Vinegrower. The Vinegrower tends for the Vine and gives It life through the care He has given. And therefore, by the loving care of the hands of the Father, He brought forth the Son in Jesus Christ, and through Jesus, He gives life also to the world. This is precisely just as the Vinegrower gives life to the branches through the care of the Vine.
Without the vine, the branches will die and not live. All the branches must be connected to the vine or the stem, just in the same way that our limbs and organs are all attached together to the same body. All are members of the same body, that is the Mystical Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, universal and united to our Lord.
Why is this important, brethren? That is because our world grows ever more individualistic, selfish and filled with ego and wickedness. The way of this world speaks volumes on the glorification of the self and self-praising attitudes. We often think in ways that bring glory to ourselves. In the many things that we do, we often were raised up to think that we are the only ones who have done them and the success, if there is any, is solely attributed to our own efforts.
And this is how we often forget God and His role in each of our lives. This is how we forget to give thanks to Him who have given us this life and opportunity to live out that life on every single day. Without God, we would not have any life, and our life would have been devoid of meaning. It is to give praise to God, for all the wonders of His grace and works, that we live our daily lives.
I recently visited a farm and observed how the farmers treat their plants and crops. The plants were treated very well, given all the nutrients and water they need to grow healthy and strong. Those plants that bear good fruits and healthy in appearance are taken care of even more, and the workers pruned the plant in order to maximise the yield of the fruits. The parts that are not so productive are pruned off and cut, so that the plant can focus its attention to the parts bearing good fruits.
What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? This means that while we have our lives from God, we also have been given grace and blessings, gifts and talents by the Lord for us, each unique to ourselves. These gifts and blessings are not meant to be kept within ourselves and left idle. These gifts and blessings are like the nutrients which the farmers had provided the plants, and thus, it is like all the graces that God had given us.
All the plants have a purpose, that is to bear good fruits, so that the good fruits may be harvested and gathered, and when sold, the fruits may bring decent and good profits to the farmers. The plants that bear bad and rotten fruits or no fruit at all, or if the plants are sickly and dying, or infested with many pests and diseases, they all will not be favourable to the farmers. They would uproot them and then throw them away to die and rot, and the place given to other plants that show more promise.
Thus, if we also produce bad fruits, or do nothing to bear fruits that befit what God had given us in His love and blessings, then we too shall not be able to enjoy God’s favour, as then there is no need for us and our existence indeed. Worse still if the rotten fruits cause the downfall to the fruits that are healthy and good. These diseases and sicknesses are causes by our sins and disobedience against God. And thus as a result, we did not bear good fruits, but rather, the fruits which had been tainted by evil.
If we profess to be the children and servants of our God, then all of our words and actions must show this very fact. And we also cannot be idle, thinking that believing in God is enough, or just being passive is enough. If we ignore the plight of others around us, and ignore those who live in the darkness while we are in the position to bring them succour and relief, then it will be the same as the plants that bear no fruit or bad fruits.
All of these Jesus had also summed up in His parables, one on the fig tree, where the fig tree that produces no fruit, He cursed and it withered and died, as well as the story which we heard today itself, on the vine and its branches. We are all born good and endowed with many good things, for we are anchored on the good vine, the true Vine, that is Jesus our Lord. But what matters is how we make use of all that goodness and develop it for the benefits of all, of everyone around us and not just ourselves.
In the first reading we heard how the great enemy of the faithful, Saul, who had been converted by the Lord Himself on the way to Damascus, and from someone who would arrest anyone who believed in Jesus at sight and persecute them to no end, into someone who now would not hesitate to preach a testimony of faith in front of the people, professing openly and teaching the people that Jesus is the Lord and Saviour of all.
Such was the complete transformation of Saul, from someone whose life once was driven by false zeal and by the desires of worldly praise, power and accomplishment, into a life that is transformed as a light for others, carried out in humility and true zeal, that one pursue no longer the desire of his own, but the desire of the Lord who had called him out of the darkness to be the servant to carry out His word to the masses.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today, as we celebrate together this Holy Mass, this holy day of the Lord, all of us witness the reminders from the Holy Scriptures, that we all should indeed put our whole attention to the Lord our God, and stop being so inward looking and so concerned about ourselves and our desires. It is in our nature to be selfish to the exclusion of others, but as we have heard, we are part of one big family, one whole body of the community of all the faithful ones, all united through Christ our Lord.
We also must heed our Lord’s will and do things in accordance to what He had taught us. If we want to remain part of the Lord and continue to remain in His grace, then we truly should focus on our actions, words and deeds. Have we been faithful in all of them, and have we practiced our faith in our daily life? Or have we idled and did nothing to show the faith which we have for God? Remember, if we do nothing to act according to our faith, then we are the same as those plants that bear little or no or bad fruits.
God often gives us chance and opportunities to change our ways of life, and indeed, if we have not done according to His will up to now, then now is indeed the time to take concrete action and devote ourselves anew on the new path, a path blessed by God. There are many temptations for us to do things against this, as Satan certainly does not want us to be saved. He would do all things in his power to distract us and lure us away from salvation.
God is our true Vine, the source of all our life and all of our goodness and blessings. He is also our Shepherd and Guide, who leads us to the true path. Let us from now on, if we have not done so, or have not done enough, help one another, and keep each other in faith, as members of the same Body, the Church, united in Christ. It is that eventually all of us may gain eternal life and salvation, liberation from all the consequences of sin, by having life through our Lord.
Let us all pray, that God will strengthen our faith, and help us so that we may be courageous in living up to our faith, and bear plentiful fruits, good fruits of faith, by loving one another, walking righteously in life, rejecting all the lies of the devil and helping each other to keep the faith living and strong. May Almighty God bless us this day and from now on, forevermore. Let us all be one in Christ our Lord. Amen.