daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 5th Sunday of Easter, May 06, 2012
Acts 9:26-31, Ps. 21, 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Without Christ we can do nothing, but if we abide in him, we will bear much fruit. Without Christ we would still be in our sins, for only through faith in him are we forgiven. Only by faith in Christ do we have life. Without Christ we are dead to God. Christ is the means that God sent into the world to reconcile man with himself. In Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of our sins. Only through faith in him are we justified and saved (Gal. 2:16).

Therefore God wants everyone from all peoples and nations to know the Son of God, the only Savior of the world, and believe in him so that they might have life in themselves, receive the forgiveness of their sins, and inherit eternal life. Therefore although we hope in God's mercy for those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ, we do not presume upon his mercy. Rather we fulfill the great commission (Matt. 28:19) that the risen Christ gave to his apostles to preach the gospel to all the peoples of the world so that all might have the opportunity to believe in him for their salvation, with all their sins forgiven, their guilt removed, and the joy of the Holy Spirit flowing through them like rivers of living water (John 7:37-39).

Only if we are in Christ, like branches on a vine, will we have life in us, the life of God himself, divine life, for "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Indeed Jesus himself said, "No one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36 KJV). "If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned" (John 15:6). "He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:12).

But "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit" (John 15:5). This fruit is God's life within us, divine life flowing through us like rivers of living water (John 7:37-39). The Holy Spirit flows within us, giving us this divine life, which does not die but assures us of eternal life with God. Christ came to give us this life, this gift from above, which we do not have by our own power. He became incarnate in our humanity to divinize it from within, illuminating it with his own splendor so that when we believe in him, his divinity flows into us, into our humanity, to transform it and make us godlike. And when we believe in him and are baptized, Christ himself makes his abode within us (John 14:23), filling us with his splendor and light. In the Eucharist the divine person of Jesus Christ makes his dwelling place within us physically and sacramentally, for his divine person animates his humanity, now sacramentalized in the form of bread and wine for us to eat and drink with faith and devotion in prayer and silence for our transformation in him. His divine person is sacramentalized together with his body and blood in the bread and wine for our nourishment.

To be ever more transformed in Christ means to be sanctified, illuminated, and divinized by him, so that we might become new men in him (Eph. 4:22-24). In this way Christ transforms and renews our understanding (Rom. 12:2) so that we focus on him and live for him alone with all our heart (Mark 12:30), with an undivided heart, not divided by the world and its pleasures (1 John 2:15; James 4:4; John 17:14).

In this way not only our mind but also our will, the faculty by which we love and desire, is renewed so that we love and desire God alone. To do this is to live a life of perfection in a radical and complete way (1 Cor. 7:32-34, 38; Luke 14:26, 33; Matt. 19:21, 27, 29; 13:44-46; 6:24, 19-21; Mark 8:35; John 12:25; Col 3:1-2; Matt. 7:13-14; 1 John 2:15; James 4:4; Mark 12:30). Christ will transform our will, our faculty of loving and desiring, so that we abandon the pleasures of the world and desire and love him alone. In its fullness this is the priestly and religious life, the celibate life, the life lived for God alone. All Christians are called to live by these ideals, although not all live them in such a radical way. This is the renovation of our being, so that we become new men and put off the old man (Eph. 4:22-24), so that we become new creatures, a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Rev. 21:5).

Christ died for all so that, believing in him, they might receive the forgiveness of sins and be freed from the pain of guilt in their heart. And he rose from the dead for all so that, believing in him, they might walk in his new light with their understanding and will renewed, illuminated, and divinized to live in this new way in the world and be lights for the rest. God wants to renew you in this way, in Christ, through your faith in him, so "that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15).

In all this renewal in Christ we must bear fruit. "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit" (John 15:5). "By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit" (John 15:8). We cannot bear fruit by ourselves, but only if we abide in the vine, which is Christ. "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me" (John 15:4). If we do not bear fruit, the Father will remove us and cast us into the fire. "Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away" (John 15:2). Bearing fruit is to have our life renewed like this in Christ, with our understanding and will transformed so that we shine in the darkness around us like lights in the world, witnesses for the rest (Phil. 2:15).

Bearing fruit also means promoting and advancing the mission of the Church in the world so that all might be renewed in Christ. This is Christ's will, and for this reason he sent his apostles to evangelize all the peoples of the world, preaching to them the gospel of God's salvation in Jesus Christ. We are to preach Christ crucified, who came to free us from punishment for our sins and from our guilt by suffering our punishment himself for us instead of us. We want all to know this and have the opportunity to believe in him and be baptized (Matt. 28:19) for the forgiveness of their sins and the assurance of eternal salvation. This salvation renews the human race, and it is active in the world through the mission of the Church.


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