Saturday, May 26, 2012


And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22)

At the end of this Easter season the liturgy brings us back to where it all began. The Gospel of John presents to us the scene in which the risen Lord appears to his disciples. This makes sense, because today, in the solemnity of the Pentecost, we culminate the whole celebration of Easter with the descent of the Holy Spirit. All throughout this time we have seen how the gift of Easter is precisely that of new life in Christ: by his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has destroyed the power of eternal death and has opened to us the gates that lead to life everlasting. Life has been regained for us by the death and resurrection of the Savior.

This life, however, is different from the life that we’ve had before. Christ’s passage from death to life marks a “before and after” for us; things are not the same as before. In baptism we die with Christ, likewise in here we rise again with him, but we rise to a new life, in which eternal death has no power, wherein there is a place for faith and hope to take root and grow, blossoming into love. This is the life in the Holy Spirit, in which we are transformed into daughters and sons of God, and not only that, but we are made into free children of God. This is the new life that is the gift of Easter: a life in which the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts allowing us to cry out to God saying “Abba! Father!” (cfr. Gal. 4:6). This is a life lived in freedom, true freedom! True freedom consists in being able to live fully outside the shadow of death and the empty darkness that threatens always to eat us alive because of sin. This is the gift of Easter, and that is why in Pentecost we see the culmination of Easter: we are not merely given life, but new life, and this life is the life of a free child of God, made so by the Spirit.

Send forth your Spirit, and you shall renew the face of the earth! Our reflection has made us see what is evident about the work of the Holy Spirit: he transforms, he molds, he changes. But most of all, what’s most typical of his action in creation is that he deifies: “Through the Holy Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations—we become God” (ST. BASIL THE GREAT, Treatise on the Holy Spirit).

What does this great feast got to do with us? If we were to examine our hearts, the way that we live our life, how we handle our relationships, especially the ones that really matter to us; if we take a look into our surroundings, in the society that we life in, we would feel the increasing need to clamor for change. We feel the need to be renewed, and this cry extends from our inner circle to include the society in which we live in. However we need to realize that we cannot effect changes merely through structures. Society could only be transformed by renewing the structures upon which it rests; but these structures will change only when the people in them change. People will only change once their lives do, and these will only come about with a change of heart. Nobody has the power to change anybody, no matter how determined one could be, because nobody has the power to touch hearts. Only God can do that. It is only when the Spirit of God is allowed to blow through the arid desert of man’s heart that man begins to change. And when man begins to change from within, only then would he have the energy to being the changes that he wants to see in the world around him.

The presence of the Holy Spirit is fundamental in our lives as Christians, all of us who are set on living according to the new life granted to us by the risen Christ. Without his grace we cannot simply live. The words of the liturgy reminds us of this when it says in the sequence: “where you are naught, man has naught, nothing good in deed or thought, nothing free from taint of ill” (Sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus of Pentecost). We cannot set ourselves to change without the aid of God’s grace. Our efforts to better ourselves day-by-day should be coupled by our petition and the acceptance of the grace of God in our lives. We need his help!

The gift of the Holy Spirit is not without missionary significance: God makes us strong to do what he has commanded us, and that is to spread the Good News of salvation. This was what the Apostles did once they became full of the Holy Spirit; drunk with his consolation, they went out into the streets—not only of Jerusalem, but eventually those of the whole world—to spread the news that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead (cfr. Acts 2:22ss). Through them, the sound of the rushing wind was not only heard within the Cenacle: it was heard even beyond the confines of the Roman empire. Through them, the divine fire of the Spirit not only burned above their heads as tongues of flame: it became a huge fire that consumed the world.

The Gospel is a force that can change society for the better. It’s message transforms mere human solidarity into true charity among the children of God; it purifies and changes tolerance into true respect and an attitude towards the truth. Strengthened and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, we are called not only to allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit from within, but also become agents of change in the society that we live in, allowing it to be imbued with real values, making truly human. Let us end this reflection asking the Lord to send for his Spirit upon us, so that we may be able to be transformed and take part in the renewal of our society and its different sectors: may the Spirit of God come once again and touch our leaders both in the Church and in the government, may the Lord imbue new life into our families and friendships. Lord sent forth your Spirit, and you shall renew the face of the earth. AMEN. ALLELUIA!

FIRST READING: Acts 2:1-11
SECOND READING: 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
GOSPEL: Jn 20:19-23.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


God mounts his throne with shouts of joy; a blare of trumpets for our God!

Today, Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, the liturgy continues to keep our gaze fixed on the same upward movement that had begun since the start of the Easter season, with the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. With the Lord returning to his exalted place at the right hand of the Father, our upward gaze literally reaches new heights. The liturgical texts and reading most certainly could aid us in coming up with so many useful considerations for our Christian life, but I would like to summarize the significance of this great feast in three concepts: glory, mission and power.

God mounts his throne with shouts of joy; a blare of trumpets for our God! When the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, the silent beating of the Virgin Mother’s heart was the sole accompaniment of God’s coming; now, as Jesus Christ ascends into heaven, he does so with glory, adorned with the wounds of the Passion, which would never be erased, as they are proof of the fact that from now on Heaven is attainable for man, aided with the grace of God. But this glory is not only that of the Son of God, but we also find ourselves included in this explosion of glory. For as we, like the disciples, fix our gaze upon the figure of the Christ until the clouds hide him from our view, we realize that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity doesn’t enter heaven in the same way as he left it: the humanity that he shares with us also gets to enter into the glory of the God. This fact presents to us what the Opening Prayer of the Mass fittingly expresses: the Ascension of Jesus is our glory and our hope. We are identified with Christ because he bears our humanity: God chose to become one of us. In his sermon on the Ascension of the Lord, St. Augustine says that the glory of Christ is ours too, because what occurs to the head also affects the body, and we are the Body of Christ. It’s much like the phenomenon of Jessica Sanchez in American Idol nowadays; we feel identified with her accomplishment because of that which we mutually possess: being Filipino.

At the same time the ascension is our hope, for if our humanity that Christ shares with us had entered into heavenly glory, we too will enter it. In the event of the Ascension, that which has been promised in the Resurrection becomes evident: our mortal humanity has been granted the hope of one day being transformed in sharing the immortal life of Christ himself, and enter into full communion with the Father, for whom the human heart was made, and which is restless until it rests in Him, to quote St. Augustine. One day we too will enter into this communion, not merely our souls, but as we are, embodied spirits.

Mission is another consideration that we have to make in this feast. Christ was sent by the Father to fulfill his plan of bringing man closer to him; now the Son returns to the Father gloriously triumphant. The mission of the Son does not end, however; as with the Father, so now the Son sends his disciples forth: as the Father has sent me, so am I sending you (Jn 20:21). Among the first words spoken by the Risen Christ were those commissioning his Apostles to do the same as he did. In the Gospel today these were the last words spoken by Christ before he ascended into the right hand of his Father: Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15). The Church throughout the centuries has been faithful to this command since its humble beginnings, and we are to take part in this great enterprise. Each of us has received that mission.

To preach the Gospel is have power. Power is the third concept that is contained in the message of the feast. That which should be proclaimed is none other than the Good News of salvation, as mentioned by in the reading: whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk 16:16). These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover (Mk 16:19). The Gospel that has the power to transform the world and society, battle the evil in it, neutralize its poison, allow for it to be a space of unity where there are all languages are understood because they speak of charity, and heal this present society that we have that, among other things, is evidently sick.

We have to realize once more that the message of the Gospel is a positive one. We live in a society that sees the Gospel of Christ as a gospel of prohibitions, one that inhibits and represses. No, the Gospel of Christ is the only way that leads to true freedom. We have it upon ourselves to show this truth in our lives. It is the Gospel that allows us to say “yes” to life, to secure a place where love can truly grow and where human life is really nurtured and protected, where man’s rights are truly discovered, respected and even loved. This cannot be possible in a society where the Gospel is not present. And where can the Gospel be found? Not in leather-bound books does the Gospel of Christ reside, but in hearts of flesh that are always open to the caress of the Spirit of God.

This final point should allow us to resolve once again to carry this Gospel in our hearts, to promote it in our lives, asking ourselves in what way could I share the Good News as Christ has commanded me to, according to the particular circumstance that I live in. It is Christ who enlightens and teaches, but it is equally true that He counts on us to make it more attractive in the world that we live in. Basically, the apostolate of the Christian with regards to the Gospel is this: allow its beauty to shine so that others may come to know and love it, and in loving it, be transformed by it.

May Mary, assumed body and soul into heavenly glory by her Son, procure for us the grace to do this in our life. AMEN, ALLELUIA!

FIRST READING: Acts 1:1-11
GOSPEL: Mk 16: 15-20

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I wanna know what love is…I want you to show me…perhaps these words of the song popularized by so many singers may serve to situate us around the central message of the liturgical reading this Sunday, the sixth of Easter. It may be an uncommon approach, but it serves. The readings of the Easter season have revolved on our identification with Christ in the new life that he has won for us through his death and resurrection: now it is not I who live, but Christ living in me (cfr. Gal 2:20). This life is given to us in baptism, and finds its ultimate and fruitful expression in love, a love that is none other but the union we live with Jesus Christ. Now, this Sunday, the readings move to us to consider another aspect of this new life of love: the message is for us to be coherent in our love for God. What does this mean?

The main consequence of love is union; love is nothing else than being identified with the one whom we love, with the beloved. This is a union that is made evident especially whenever we sync ourselves with what our beloved wants. This is expressed clearly when St. Augustine mentions that Perfect love of God means the complete union of our will with God's .

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love…you are my friends if you do what I command you”. These are the words that we hear from our Lord in the Gospel of this Sunday; they allow us to see the necessary relation between the concept of love and that of the commandments. Much before Christ, the commandments of God given over to Moses was the perfect expression of the divine will, according to the faith of the people of Israel. The Torah (the Law) was the supreme manifestation of the Lord to his people, the stipulation of the covenant made between them as the people of God and the Lord who claimed them as his own portion. It was at the center of their faith. But the Law of Sinai was given merely in preparation for its upcoming fulfillment in Jesus Christ, in whom, being the perfect image of the invisible God (cfr. Col. 1:15), the face of the God who is love is able to seen at last by man. It is in Jesus Christ that the commandments of God find their supreme expression, the law of love for God and neighbor: “Love one another”.

This love, however, could not be done in just any way. Man cannot define love all by himself. This is something we tend to do actually: take it and define it according to our convenience, to shape it and mold it according to our comfort. Such attempts at defining what love is, left to our own device, has shown disastrous results. I am not saying that man is incapable of defining love, but rather that he should not do it on his own: he should allow love to define him first. This was the reason why in the Gospel passage of John, Jesus was quick to add: “…as I have loved you”. Love—man’s love—is perfectly only in the measure that it is akin to the divine love which the Lord has shown to us through his own example. What then is love? “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his son as expiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). These words taken from the letter of John in the First Reading are but a mere echo of those of the Lord Jesus when he said: “no one has greater love than this, that one lays down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:3). Autobiographical words are these by Christ, whose love was the ultimate expression of generosity, done to the last drop of blood and to the ounce of life offered upon the Cross, in obedience to his Father’s will. Seeing this in Christ, we realize that this is what love is: the perfect obedience, the perfect identification to the will of the Father, who had sent him to the world not to condemn it, but rather to save it. This love of the Son of God was the opened the well-spring from which gushed the waters that gave us life. Only this kind of love can make us truly free, the only one powerful enough to transform us from being slaves of sin into friends of God, as the Lord has expressed it: “I call you friends…” (Jn. 15:15). When we allow this love to touch our life, it begins to transform our relationships, our marriage, our priesthood, friendships, our professional life, etc., making then into spaces where we exercise the true freedom of a child of God, a freedom which the secularist world constantly promises us, but is incapable of giving.

The message narrows down to this: we cannot say that we do love God and yet refuse to do what He wants of us, no being obedient to His will, expressed in the commandments. The love for God, our identity as Christians, bears its fruit in our moral life. In terms of morality, the Magisterium of the Church, its authority coming from Christ and sustained with the aid of the Holy Spirit, is our motherly teacher and sure guide.

Nowadays, the constant temptation for the Christian is to be politically correct, most especially in terms of morality and the issues surrounding it in our present society. Living the life of Christ in us makes us realize that we cannot afford to always be politically correct in our moral options. The mark of the Christian is not political correction, but rather obedience to the law of God. This comes to say that the commitment to Christ and the love for his Church should not leave us indifferent in terms of our moral choices, and in the face of the moral issues that are present in society. We cannot say we really love God, and yet at the same time support—even implicitly—the contraceptive mentality that is getting more prevalent in society. We cannot profess truthfully that we are united with what God wants, and yet agree to a definition of marriage other than it being solely between a man and a woman; one cannot say that he is committed to Christ, but is indifferent to the abuse of persons, to the corruption and injustice present in society. The indication that God’s love has finally come to dwell in our hearts is that in does not leave us indifferent. The love of God and for neighbor should lead us to live coherent lives, and fight against all of this evil in society.

The Word of God should lead us then to examine our hearts, and ask for the strength of the Holy Spirit in our lives, especially as we come closer to the great feast of Pentecost, so that, as the Opening Prayer of the Mass suggests, “we may express in our lives the love we celebrate”. AMEN, ALLELUIA!

FIRST READING: Acts 10:25-26; 34-35; 44-48.
GOSPEL: Jn 15: 9-17.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

D-DAY IN PALO:part 2

As second part to the post that I published yesterday concerning the first images of Du-Day comes these new batch of pictures. I had them from different photos taken and posted in the internet.

The arrival of the Archbishop in the port of Ormoc.
The Archbishop-elect is greeted by Mayor Codilla of of Ormoc.

During the welcome accorded to the Archbishop-elect at the
Sts. Peter and Paul Parish.

Archbishop-elect Du delivering his first words to his flock in

Meanwhile, in Palo, the focal point of the day's
solemnities, the finishing touches for the big
day are being applied. The Cathedral has been
spruced up, and it's good that the first great
event that the newly-renovated Cathedral would be
witnessing would be the installation of the new Archbishop.

Vestments for the bishops and the priests have been especially
made for the occasion, thanks to the efforts of Sagrado under the
watchful guidance of Fr. Alvin Nicolasora and the FHL

The new cathedra with the arms of the new Archbishop

As at Cebu more than the year ago, the concelebrating priests
were situated first in the big cathedral. These priests are clearly
 not from Palo. Aside from the fact that their faces are not familiar to me,
in my opinion they're not well-vested, having placed the chasuble
over whatever they were wearing. Palo clergy in occasions like this,
as in any grand occasion, always wear their albs or cassocks underneath.
Not that I'm bragging, I'm just stating a fact.

Archbishop-elect Du leading the procession of bishops
to the altar for the start of the Installation Mass

seminarians leading the procession.

A closer view, with Fr. John Paul Pedrera,
secretary to the Archbishop

According to what I've gleaned from sources,
around fifty prelates graced the event

Two great figures from the history of the Archdiocese: the ARchbishops-emeritus Dean and Palma, respectively

A closer view of the Archbishop of Cebu, with Cardinal Rosales.

The actual Archbishop of Manila, Archbishop Tagle,
 in the middle of the photo

The Nuncio to the Philippines as the installing prelate at the end of the

The entrance to the cathedral.

A beautiful view of the assembly in the cathedral

The episcopal motto of the new Archbishop: Christ is my light.

The Nuncio, Archbishop Guiseppe Pinto, at the start of the Mass.

The Nuncio guiding the new Archbishop to take possession of the cathedra.

AD MULTOS ANNOS, Archbishop DU!!!!

Cardinal Vidal delivering the homily. Witnessing the archiepiscopal installation
of someone whom you ordained years ago must be a moving and fulfilling experience,
one that the old Cardinal had had more than once

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

D-DAY IN PALO: Archbishop Du's Installation, part 1

I guess I've been quite remiss about announcing the long awaited news of the new Shepherd for the Palo archdiocese. Bishop John Ferrosuelo Du of Dumaguete was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to succeed Archbishop José S. Palma in the metropolitan See of Palo upon the latter's appointment as the Archbishop of Cebu, replacing Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who retired about two years ago. Bishop Du's appointment was made public on February 25, 2012. At least I could pride myself for being one of the first to get to know the joyful news, thanks to a priest friend currently studying at the Vatican school for diplomats. I got to receive the news in real time; I could remember breathless out of emotion as I tried to communicate the news through Facebook. After conveying the news, I immediately went down to the sacristy to offer a Mass of thanksgiving. 

I was hoping to be able to make it to the installation, but i soon learned that I would be arriving about two weeks after the event. For the second time thus I would be absent in the installation of the Archbishop of Palo, and considering that His Grace is in his prime, we won't be witnessing any installation for a long time. 

I will be posting the first pictures that come form the other side of the world where these exciting things are taking place.

the program of activities

The Archbishop-elect's arrival in Ormoc from Cebu was marked by
a simple service in honor of Our Lady at the parish church of
Sts. Peter and Paul. He was received by the Archdiocesan
Administrator, Msgr. Jaime Villanueva, and the parish priest, Fr. Gilbert

After taking some refreshments in Ormoc, accompanied by a good number
of the clergy from Dumaguete, he made for Palo, where after a two-hour ride,
he was feted by the local clergy of Palo--his from now on.

Archbishop-elect Du and his predecessor, Archbishop Palma of Cebu.
I hope to post more pictures as they come...

Sunday, May 6, 2012


A Catholic priest in Australia has made a controversial revelation: he has been married to a Filipina for a year now.

According to Yahoo! Australia's 7News, Father Kevin Lee, a priest for 20 years in Glenmore Park, Sydney, admits "living a double life" with his wife Josephina, whom he met in the Philippines.

“So I've fallen in love and I've got married and it's outside of most people's awareness, but I'm sure people within the church could have had a suspicion,” Lee told 7News.

The Australian priest claimed that there are many others like him and that he pitied those “sacrificing” priests around the world who are denying themselves a relationship.

“That's one of the reasons that motivated me to make public my admission that I'm one of those people who's been a pretender: To draw to the attention of the public that there are more like me, in fact most of them,” Lee was quoted as saying.
“I feel sorry for them, I really do, but I think they need to admit they are not being led properly. I think celibacy has to go as a prerequisite for being a minister in the Catholic religion,” he added.

While urging for the abolition of celibacy, Lee also plans to write a book about what he believes is the wider wrongdoing of fellow priests.
However, after making a public confession of his marriage, 7News reported that Lee has been removed from his position as parish priest and has been excommunicated by the church.

The head of the diocese, Bishop Anthony Fisher, denied Lee's claim that most priests live double lives and that the hierarchy knew of his marriage.
“As Father Kevin is aware, by his actions he can no longer operate as a priest and as a result I will immediately be appointing an administrator to Padre Pio parish,” Fisher said in a statement.
This piece of news doesn’t surprise me: it’s nothing new; this is not the first time that this has happened, nor will it be the last.
No, I’m not shocked, nor will I feign outrage at my brother priest’s remarks. However the guy has said some things that have made me thinking.

First of all it doesn’t surprise me that he’ll end up confessing his “marriage”, an announcement which undoubtedly would sadden not only the community that he had been building up for so long, but would also wound the greater community that is the Church. Such things cannot be kept under wraps for so long. I don’t know how to cook rice, but from what I’ve observed, the contents of a bubbling pot tend to spill out sooner or later (though in most cases, it’s more sooner than later). It doesn’t surprise me; the guy has got the whole package: the girl’s got looks (she’s quite a catch), and she’s Filipina, and that means that stereotypically he’s got someone who’s caring and loving. But most of all because, as he himself admitted, he has been living a double life.

There you got it.

Celibacy doesn’t have to get the blame for that. It’s like saying that, having been caught committing adultery, you blame being married to your wife. That is why I kinda reacted when Fr. Kevin (he is, after all, an ordained priest) said that he pitied those “sacrificing” priests around the world who were denying themselves of a relationship.

I would daresay that this is another misstep that he had committed. I am no judge of the heart, nor would I judge him, but then I was thinking about the way he had been considering his whole priestly life of twenty years: is priesthood not a relationship, and a loving one at that? Was it not supposed to be a life of prayer, and prayer understood as a relationship? When a priest ceases to pray, that is when he feels most alone, and turns around looking for relationships. Now I’m not saying that Fr. Kevin doesn’t pray, however. But intuitively I know that there has never been a priest who took his prayer life seriously who left the priesthood, no matter how tough things were going.

I think a double life in anyone—whether he a priest or a married man—is caused by the fact that he has lost his center of gravity. A married man begins to offer more than just a cursory glance at other women than his wife because his life has ceased to revolve around her. In the case of the priest this is because his personal relationship with Jesus Christ has waned.

“I feel sorry for them, I really do. I think that they need to admit that they are not being led properly. I think celibacy has to go as a prerequisite for being a minister in the Catholic religion”, Fr. Lee says. One could invent a thousand and one reasons against the discipline of clerical celibacy. Priests are supposed to be smart. But in the end one could only be sorry for himself. Fr. Lee may be right in some way when he referred to priests who are still in the ministry living a double life the same way as he does as needing to be led properly (we have also a crisis of episcopal authority and shepherding in the Church), but celibacy is not the reason for the scandal that he has helped in unleashing. If he thinks that it’s time for celibacy to go, I respect for his personal opinion, and am glad that we could agree to disagree on this point. Thank God the Magisterium of the Catholic Church doesn’t depend on personal opinion, or consensus, or majority, or polls.

This piece of news doesn’t shock nor anger nor discourage me. It’s nothing new, as I’ve said; I wonder why they placed this kind of thing in the first place. It all the more bolsters the conviction that much of the media nowadays thrives not on the truth but on sensationalism: the truth doesn’t seem to be so popular nowadays.

But this does move me to something, however. More than anything else, this has moved me to fall on my knees. This guy, and the rest who seem to have their fifteen seconds of fame for leaving the priesthood—Fr. Alberto Cutie, Fr. John Corappi, and now this—were better priests than me. If they were able to let this happen in their life, how much more in my mine? Only God’s grace could save me from the same fate, and my fidelity to that grace. As they say it in Spanish, no somos nada, we’re nothing.

I could sure thank Fr. Kevin for pointing out the root cause of this trouble.


The imagery that the Lord presents in the Gospel for this Sundays jibes very well with the season in which we are presently in, and I am not merely referring to Easter. For us who are here in more temperate zones in the northern hemisphere, we are already in the middle of spring. This may raise some concerns for those who are suffer from allergies or are particularly sensitive to pollen, but for the greater part, it is very much evident that the barrenness and the hard cold of winter have given way to the freshness of spring. Where once there was merely barren earth, fresh shoots have sprung up, and seemingly dried twigs have brought forth fresh green shoots. Spring shows us that the earth, which seemed dead, is actually alive. This brings to consider once again the message of the liturgical season of Easter, which we are in.

To sum it all, the gift and grace of Easter is nothing less than new life in Christ. This new life we have all received in Baptism, and in the other sacraments of initiation that go with it—Confirmation and the Eucharist. Through these sacraments, with us being inserted in the death of Christ, we are also brought back to life with him. It is not the life that we used to live before: now it is something new, because before of we have been slaves of sin and death, now we are sons and daughters, co-heirs with the only begotten Son of God.

In the Gospel this Sunday, the Lord teaches us that the only way to keep this new life going within us is to live it in union with him, and in order to express this, he resorts to the image of the vine and the branches: “I am the vine, you are the branches”. The image conveys something that seems to be quite evident to us: branches cannot live on their own; they need to be attached to that which truly channels the sap that gives life to them, which is none other than the vine. Likewise, in order to live this new life, which has been given to us by the Lord as a grace—a free gift, we need to be in union with Jesus Christ. This is what Christian life basically is: a life lived in union with Christ, separated from whom we can do nothing. It is a life that is meant to be fruitful, and by this we mean that it bring forth fruits of holiness. Jesus says “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit”: the fruit referred to in this saying is the holiness of life made fruitful by union with Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2074). A Christian cannot afford to be barren; no joy could be had in being found without fruit (remember that the only creature cursed by the Lord was a fig tree, doomed to be sterile forever).

Where do we live this union with Christ? Basically it is found in our life of prayer, which is none else but being with him. Prayer is actually a relationship, very much like the ones that we have. The quality of our relationships depends on the intensity of our union. We prefer to stay more with those whom we love more, and this love transforms us; the lesser time and attention we spend, the lesser love that we cultivate in our hearts, and the less we are transformed by these people, and vice versa. Prayer is union with Jesus Christ, Son of God and our Lord: the moments that we spend with him in the silence of our ordinary life, the things that we do out of love for him in secret—this is prayer.

Union is also fostered in our sacramental life: Jesus continues to touch us through the sacraments in the most profound way. If one doesn’t go to Mass every Sunday as he should, allowing himself to be touched by the Lord in the liturgy, I doubt that that person could actually maintain such a relationship. In the spiritual life, a so-called long-distance relationship simply does not exist: or we are personally touched by Christ in the most profound way through the sacraments, or we don’t allow ourselves to be touched at all. The liturgy of this Sunday clearly reminds us of this contact, when in one of the prayers of the Mass we here that by this holy exchange of gifts (the bread and wine turned into the Lord’s Body and Blood), we share in God’s divine life (cfr. Prayer over the Gifts, 5th Sunday of Easter).

Just as the branches go green, flourish and bring forth fruit because of the sap that flows into them from the great vine, so we too grow in spiritual gifts as we are united to Christ. In the First Reading are made to see the situation of the community of believers in the Acts of the Apostles: The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Spirit it grew in numbers (Acts 9:30-31). Separated from Christ, we cannot hope to grow or progress; far from his grace we do not even halt, but rather retrocede. Instead of growing up life strong cedars that grow tall and strong, providing shade and shelter, we get stunted like bonsais, interesting to look at perhaps, but useless.

It is only being in union with Jesus that we could heed the admonition in the Second Reading, taken from the first letter of John: Children, let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and in truth. There is nothing more pathetic than a Christian who is incapable of loving, and who cannot profess this love in his life. A Christian who does not love is a sad one, and when a Christian is sad, that is very serious indeed. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life(Jn 3:16); my commandment is this: love one another as I have loved you (cfr. Jn 15:12): love is at the heart of the Gospel message, and we live in the fullness of this message as we make this message alive in us.

May our union with Christ show us how to live this love concretely in our ordinary life.  With the sap of grace form the Vine, who is Jesus, flowing in us, may we live according to the newness of life that he has won for us with his death and resurrection. AMEN, ALLELUIA!

FIRST READING: Acts 9:26-31
GOSPEL: Jn 15:1-8