Still being in the lockdown due to the pandemic that has changed our lives so much, we are continuing to celebrate the season of Easter as we gather virtually this weekend to reflect on the passage taken from St. John’s Gospel, in which Christ says: I am the vine, you are the branches.
“Today and next Sunday the gospel readings are from the Last Supper discourse of John. Chronologically, the Last Supper took place before Jesus’s death and resurrection, yet we hear them after Easter. This is a reminder that we are not remembering and celebrating events in their strict historical sequence, but that we are immersed in a liturgical mix of time and timelessness; we are celebrating the mystery that is always and everywhere the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. As we listen to the Johannine account of the last meal of Jesus with his disciples, we are, here and now, at the table with Jesus and the community of disciples, tangling our lives with him, the true vine, and with the branches of all the baptized.
We hear much shouting of would-be people of power: fanatical tyrants, political agitators, self-righteous politicians. We may even add to this chorus our own small voices on matters personal, ecclesial, or social. But what Jesus speaks about at table is the power of love and of gentle growth. He gives us another image of the great intimacy and interdependence that exists between himself, his Father, and his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower” – and we are the branches. The vine and vineyard were familiar images to the people of God in the Old Testament. Israel was the vine brought out of Egypt and planted by God the vine grower in its own soil (Ps 80:8-13). So significant was the image of the vine that on one facade of the Jerusalem temple sanctuary was carved an ornamental vine with golden clusters of grapes as big as a human hand. And the early Christian community painted the vine on the walls of the catacombs in memory of Christ, the true vine.
The image of the vine is a radically nonhierarchical image of the people of God, for all the branches are so intertwined that when looking at a vine it is almost impossible to tell where one branch begins and another ends. All tangle together as they grow from the central stock, undifferentiated by anything but their fruitfulness….
To remain healthy and productive the vine must be pruned by our vine grower God. Those in whom the baptismal sap rises have already been pruned by the words Jesus speaks, but we must continue to accept not only the short, sharp pain of God’s snipping from our lives the small and withering infidelities, but also be willing to endure the longer agony of more drastic pruning that is sometimes necessary. This is not to make of the Vine Grower a ruthless tyrant, because what is done is done out of love for the vine. In his passion and death, the Christ who knew no sin was made sin for us (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), and suffered in faithful hope that most drastic pruning of his passion and death so that the branches of the vine, his community, might thrive through his resurrected life.
Sometimes what needs to be pruned in our lives is the parasite runner of individualism that wants to go its own way, or the sucker that feeds on self-interest; both draw life away from the vine. At other times, our vine-dressing God recognizes our potential for greater fruit-bearing, and with this the need for heavy pruning. After such pruning, a vine may bear no fruit for several years, but it remains rooted and waiting, confident in the tending of the Vine Grower, until both are rewarded with a tremendous, bursting yield. When we yield such a harvest of good works, says Jesus, we give glory to the Father and are confirmed in our discipleship.” (Living Liturgy 2021)
Thank you to a number of our parishioners who participated in the little survey that was sent out last Saturday. Its responses show that there is a need for us to connect in this challenging time to help maintain our sense of community, by providing such things as time to pray together and an opportunity for the study of the Bible, which we had been doing here before the pandemic every Tuesday.
This week we have published the financial statement for the past three years on our website, to communicate to you the financial situation of our parish. The financial committee has provided important feedback about our situation which is attached to the report. Please visit our website for the report and go to the “Donate” to see it. If you have any questions please call the parish office and speak with our bookkeeper Jean Goobie or email the members of our financial committee, whose names are listed on the statement. I wish to thank all our parishioners for your financial contributions in the past years to help maintain this church that has been entrusted to us, and especially now as we are not able to be together in person – many parishioners so generously drop off their Sunday donations at the parish door or use the online giving option. Please know that our parish offers a pre-authorized giving option that can so easily replace the need to use your envelopes and yet provides the parish with consistent donations. Please call or email our bookkeeper if you would like to switch to pre-authorized giving. I hope that one day we here at SFX can become more “green” by completely eliminating the use of Sunday envelopes, since they create a lot of paper waste and each year some boxes end up not being claimed.
Next week is Catholic Education Week, when we acknowledge the importance of the separate education system and those who are involved in the education efforts that are centred on the Gospel of Christ and Christian values. Our Diocese provided materials for the celebration of CEW that can be accessed through our online parish bulletin (published tomorrow) or by visiting our Facebook account. One of those materials is the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word by Bishop Crosby in the newly built St. Benedict Church in Milton.
This year, our parish will join Catholic communities around the world in celebrating Laudato Si’ Week. Almost 6 years ago, in May of 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical entitled “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home”. It is a letter that he addressed to “every person living on this planet”, and in it he talks about how we are shaping the future of the Earth. He calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. Last year, our parish established a Laudato Si Circle, a group that meets regularly with the focus of praying with and for creation, striving to become stronger stewards of creation, and taking action for change. During Laudato Si Week, we will be hosting three events that we hope that individuals and families from our parish will join in with. For more details about these events, you’re invited to visit the online bulletin or the Circle’s brand new Facebook page, which is called “Laudato Si Circle – St. Francis Xavier Parish, Stoney Creek”.
Please join us virtually for the celebration of the Sunday Mass that will be livestreamed at 10am this Sunday with the Rosary prayed at 9:30am.