Gospel Commentary by Fr. Joseph Rampino | Fifth Sunday of Easter
The Heart of Our Faith
During this holiest season of Easter, the ancient Church turned to re-focus on understanding our holy faith’s most important mysteries, namely, our reception of the Christ’s risen life through Baptism and the holy Eucharist. Today, we humans tend to focus more on the moral and societal aspects of religion, which leads us to a greater emphasis on Lent, the season of purification, over the other seasons of the year. Yet the heart of the Christian life remains the same, in the mysteries before the morals. So, though Easter’s sacramental emphasis might feel strange to us, it is necessary for our souls that we follow the ancients, and re-encounter the foundation of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
The Gospel the Church gives us this week, in which Jesus describes Himself as the vine, and all of us as the branches, brings us directly to the heart of the Christian faith. Christ is the one truly living being, in whom we all become one living being. Christ, though divine, become one of us, that we, though mortal and frail, might become members of God Himself, partakers in the divine nature, bearing divine fruit in the world. In this way, the alienation that Adam and Eve passed down to each one of us, their rejection of God’s friendship, their wounded ability to love one another, live with themselves, and exist in peace with the created world, finds healing in a new and even better communion with God. Before, humanity spoke with God in the garden, now in Christ, we are grafted into Him branches in the vine, as members of His body. This is the heart and purpose of the Christian religion. Christianity is not primarily about being kind to the people around us, it is about how God has made us one with Himself in love, and in so doing, calls all humanity together into eternity as one living body.
It is this mystery of the one living thing that is the mystical vine, Jesus and all those grafted into Him, that we consider in the Easter season. Through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ conquered the wounds of sin that would keep us apart from union with Him, and healed our human nature, so that we might be made capable of sharing eternal life in that union. He gives us a share in His resurrection and glory and makes us one with Him through the sacrament of Baptism, which we celebrate and commemorate throughout the Easter season. He binds us more deeply into Himself by a true exchange of flesh and blood in Holy Communion, which the Church commands us to receive at least once during this Easter season. The result of these Sacraments is the one body of all those who have been baptized and who live off of the body and blood of the Lord, which we call quite simply the Church.
The Church, made by Baptism and the Eucharist, is where we can find, even today the vine about which Christ spoke in John’s Gospel. The Church is not merely a human institution or an organized religion. Its members are not bound only by registration, records, or self-identification. They are joined by the share in divine nature they have been granted in the Sacraments, and by the indestructible mark left on the soul at Baptism. This mystic vine we call the Church is, as the ancient Christians would name it, the Whole Christ. This Easter season, we should ask the Lord for the grace to see again this truth, and accept this gift of divine love.