Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The True Vine

May 13, 2009

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved." Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question. Acts 15:1-2

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. John 15:7-8


Do you think God like the songs performed by the 1970 duet The Carpenters? Maybe he even inspired the lyrics to one of their songs.

Why do stars fall down in the sky every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be, close to you.


Question: How do you make God laugh?

A: Tell Him your plans.

When our plans bear fruit, we do not always know how to deal with success. However, we must realize that the success was not ours…it belongs to the Holy Spirit. We are just the branches, right? He is the True Vine. We can do everything to get ready but then we have to sit back and let the Advocate take over.

Paul and Barnabas were pleased with the success of their work converting the Gentiles. However they also were concerned that there was “no little dissension” about the need for the Gentiles to be circumcised. Pardon me…ouch! Thank you for accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Now we just need a small donation of skin from your…OUCH!

As potentially painful as this debate was for the Gentiles, pardon me again for imagining that God was giggling up in heaven as Paul and Barnabas travelled to Jerusalem to debate circumcision. God did not invent Mosaic Law and circumcision any more than He invented infant baptism and original sin or Jack Daniels Old No. 7 and the Ford Pinto.

God wants us to remain close to him and bring others close to him. So I can’t imagine that such a loving friend wants to inflict pain on any of his followers, children or adults, men or women. God doesn’t care if we have blue hair, tattoos or body piercings (maybe he draws the line with nose rings, but maybe not). Fortunately, Jim Jacobs explained to me, St. Paul prevailed in the debate with Peter and circumcision was not required for the converts.


If we want to get closer to God, maybe surrounding ourselves with people who have attitudes that will bring us closer to God, not those who would divide us further, will help. The path is long and winding. Perhaps these people will keep us from getting lost along the way.

What is our equivilent to Peter and Paul's circumcision battleground that we are getting lost in today?

Do you think God also is laughing about other pre-occupations that take command the attention of organized religion? Do you think God minds if our church does or does not have kneelers? Maybe the bishop, pastor or pastoral council does. But if we are all kneeling down, how can we accept God’s invitation walk with Him?

Do you think God really cares who delivers the commencement speech at Notre Dame? I expect dissent on a campus like Notre Dame…after all don’t we call them the Fighting Irish for a reason beyond football? The world did not end and the Catholic character of the school was not torn asunder when Bill Clinton spoke there in the early 1990s. I think they will survive Saturday.

Sometimes it takes people, culture, politics or even the Church a long time to come around to the true teachings of Jesus. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton pointed out in a recent homily that the Church did not condemn slavery until the Second Vatican Council in 1965 – a full century after the Emancipation Proclamation and the American Civil War. That timing did not make the practice any less reprehensible in the eyes of the Lord.

Jesus wants to make sure we keep him in our hearts whether we are kneeling or standing or walking or listening to the commencement speaker.

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