Vines, Branches, and Fruit
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear that [Saul] “moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him.” Just a few verses later we hear “The church … was at peace.” For some reason this juxtaposition strikes me as funny. But there is great coherence in the Liturgy of the Word between the readings, nevertheless. At the end of this passage from Acts we hear that the church “was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.”
In John’s gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower … You are already pruned [by my Father] because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you … because without me you can do nothing … [but] 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.”
And the author of the first letter of John (widely believed to be the same author as that of the fourth gospel) tells us that we must love in deed and truth, keeping God’s commandments to believe in Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded.
I think the introduction to the first letter of John on the U.S. Bishop’s website www.uscb.org/bible/1john/0 provides some useful food for reflection on not only that reading but on the others for today as well:
“… authentic Christian love, ethics, and faith take place only within the historical revelation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The fullness of Christian life as fellowship with the Father must be based on true belief and result in charitable living; knowledge of God and love for one another are inseparable, and error in one inevitable affects the other.
Although the author recognizes that Christian doctrine presents intangible mysteries of faith about Christ, he insists that the concrete Christian life brings to light the deeper realities of the gospel.”
So what are some possible “takeaways” (pardon the jargon) from today’s readings for us, the community of Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo, in 2018? How about these:
So, brothers and sisters, let’s encourage one another continually along the way.
Liturgy and Music Minister
Do All Things with Love
Dear Parish Family,
There is so much we can say of our Sunday Gospel this week, I will keep it simple. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who showed us total self-giving love. For some of us, it’s hard to understand the sacrifices that a good shepherd was willing to make for his flock. A hired hand is there for the pay, at the sign of danger abandons the sheep, he has no investment with the sheep in his care. A good shepherd loves his sheep, living alongside of them for many years, knowing each one. He would see to the needs of his sheep, guiding them where to eat and drink, finding shelter from the weather, even risking his life to protect the sheep from wolves or thieves. A good shepherd knows his sheep and they know his voice, they trust him and follow him. He cares for his sheep not out of obligation but of love.
For those of us who have only seen sheep or shepherds at the county fair, perhaps it is easier to understand this kind of self-giving love, in the relationship of a parent and his child. In the second reading we are reminded, “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” We are His Children, his beloved. As his children, no sacrifice is too much. When I was a child my parents worked in the fields, at times leaving the house as the sun was rising and back as it was setting. A hard job and low wage, to be able to provide for my siblings and me. Even after they got home, they did not have the luxury to put their feet up and rest. Together they would take on the daily house tasks, mom making sure we ate together a warm healthy dinner, dad would make sure we had done our homework and have us share our day’s adventures. I remember dad always keeping up the yard, watering the grass and flowers. Why would he add another task to his already exhausted body? He did this because he wanted us to have a place to play and knew how much my mom loved the roses in the garden. Sundays, their only day off, after church, we would pack up the car and go to the park or beach. I am sure they would much rather have stayed home and slept in. I don’t remember ever hearing them
complain about how tired they were. I am able to see all their sacrifice was done not out of obligation but out of love. I am sure you have many similar stories of your own. No sacrifice is too big for those you love.
This Sunday is also Vocation Sunday, we pray for our priest and Church leaders who are caring for the souls, who go out and gather the lost sheep to bring back to God’s loving embrace. And for all the many good shepherds in our lives, who are given the responsibility of caring for others, may we all be his good sheep, listening attentively to his voice, and follow his example of self-giving love. Inspiring others to follow him especially in the vocation of priesthood or religious life. Jesus the Good Shepherd is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let us as followers of Jesus, be witnesses to his resurrection, and do all things with love.
Faith Formation Minister
The Peace and Anxiety of Discipleship
Dear Faith Family,
I hope you all are having a wonderful Easter Season!
This Sunday’s Gospel is quite interesting to me. I love how it opens with two disciples discussing their previous encounter with Jesus. A lot of us are blessed to have encounters with God; many of us have had an instance in our lives where God was present and it gives us fuel as we live our lives as disciples. But what makes this Sunday’s Gospel interesting, is that Jesus approaches them in the present and they are filled with anxiety.
I find this part of the Gospel relevant to our lives because we sometimes think of the past times where we have experienced God’s love, and also fail to realize how God reveals himself in the present.
I’ve been blessed with encounters of God on various retreats and I tend to hold these encounters close to my heart. There is absolutely nothing wrong thinking back to a time where God’s love was tangible and vibrant, and like I said, it is great fuel for our mission as disciples. Sometimes though, there is a temptation to only focus on those times and not recognize how God is calling us to mission in the present moment. In fact, when Jesus appears to the disciples, it says that they were “startled and terrified.” I think it’s common for us to feel this way as well.
It is normal to be a bit scared of what God is calling us to do in our everyday lives. But I think it should give us some sense of peace to know that His disciples felt the same way at times. It is nice knowing that we may share some insecurities that the disciples also had. In the Gospel their literal encounter with the resurrected Christ had them feeling startled and terrified. But when Jesus says “peace be with you,” to the disciples in this passage, he also is directing that toward us, His current
So faith family, I invite you all to lift each other up during this Easter Season and to help each other not only share your personal, past accounts of God’s grace, but to also show each other how God is currently present in our lives, calling us to share His loving message and to have a meal with Him.
Although discipleship can be scary sometimes, every time we encounter Christ, I pray that we allow ourselves to be at peace with the encounter and to have the bravery to go touch his wounds and have a meal with Him.
Happy Easter everybody!
Youth and Young Adult Minister
After the Cross…
My Dear Parish Family,
Every week the Pastoral Team, including me, takes turns writing the message of the week. It is generally based on the message in the gospel for the day. Often we have another point or two to incorporate. It is amazing when the gospel message, God’s message, pulls it all together.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and it is my turn to write the letter. How do I make it relate? Every April we generally talk about the many ways that we as a parish help to prevent child sexual abuse, through the positive use of fingerprinting and training, campus assessments, committee meetings, and teaching the children what to watch for and guard against.
I remember the first time I taught Teaching Touching Safety training more than a decade ago as mandated by the
Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. I prepared for weeks. I attended the certification training, watched all the videos, read all the material and finally, spent days writing the lesson plans for grades 1 through 12. I was well prepared and… I was angry.
I was angry that a few depraved people had changed the game for everyone else. Thousands, millions of innocent children now had to put up with angry, anxious, apprehensive middle-aged women like me who were mandated to teach them about safe and unsafe touches. I teamed with my friend, volunteer and fellow parishioner Dr. Lisa Barra to conduct the training. When I saw those beautiful, sweet faces looking at me so trusting, something clicked. I realized what I was doing was not about the perpetrators, the darkness; this was about these children, the light. I had to equip these kids. I had to empower them to keep themselves safe. It quickly became perfectly natural to tell the children that Jesus loves them so much, he wants them to be happy. To help them in life, Jesus gave them lots of loving, trusted adults to care for them. So if they are not happy, or even a little uncomfortable, they need to tell.
The apostles knew to expect Jesus to suffer and die. They were not prepared for what came next, Jesus’ appearance in the upper room. He came to them with a message of peace. He breathed on them. That same breath surrounds us still today. That same breath animates us to do the work of God, to love one another, to see beauty and sweetness in the people around us.
All of us carry burdens and heartaches of our own or those of people we love. If you are a victim of abuse, please call the Victims Assistance Ministry office (213) 637·7650. If you have a heartache of a completely different nature, talk to your “trusted adult” or please call the parish office and ask to speak with Teresa Runyon who will connect you with a support group, therapist, deacon or priest. If you need to go to confession, please come to church any Saturday at 3:45pm.
Jesus loves you so much he wants you to be happy. After the cross, there is work and there is joy.
Parish Life Minister
P.S. Thanks and gratitude to our Safeguard the Children Committee: Suzy Maraboto, Dr. Lisa Barra, Jackie Perrin, Linda Smith, Brett Becker, Deacon Neil Kingsley, Tere Delgado, Liz Vega, Nancy Jorgesen and me. If you would like to join this caring group, please contact me or Nancy in the parish office.
The rains have come, at last. Our hills and mountains are taking on a beautiful shade of green, and flowers will soon begin to bloom. The wildflowers come in waves over the next few months, before the warmth of summer drives them back into dormancy. I was hiking last year in the Santa Monica Mountains, maybe a mile from the Ray Miller trailhead, when I took the picture below. We have to enjoy the flowers when they are growing, as they fade so quickly.
The new life on our hillsides comes along at just the right time this year to serve us as a metaphor, not only for the Risen Christ, but also for what’s possible in our own lives when we commit ourselves to the ancient spiritual path of the Christian life. It was always our Lord’s intent that we, too, would experience in our lives, here on earth, constant renewal and growth.
We would also like to burst forth in renewed, life giving ways:
My prayer for you this Easter is that the renewal we experience all around us in nature, and that we celebrate as the triumph of our Lord Jesus over death, finds its way into your life as well. I pray that you flourish, even blossom, especially in those places where you recognize the need to grow. I look forward to journeying with you this year, together, as God’s Easter people, ever filled with hope.
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