10 May 2009 - Fr Terry Tastard writes:

 In this ecological age there is something about the image of the vine (John 15.1-8) that speaks powerfully to us. We are the branches, splaying out from the main trunk. But the same sap courses through the whole of the vine, bringing life and nourishment wherever it goes. We are to understand that it is the same with the Church. We are part of the body of Christ, and his life is given to us, making us one living whole with him. This is wonderfully symbolised in the Eucharist, where we share the cup of salvation in which wine, the fruit of the grape, becomes for us the Blood of Christ. The image tells us that belong together, because the life that Christ gives us flows also into every other part of the vine. We share this life. We are all part of the one vine.

I was very moved by a story posted by a Catholic deacon on his blog. Deacon Dan Wright serves the Diocese of Austin in Texas His youngest son is autistic with unpredictable behaviour. He was prepared by three specially trained catechists. But when the day for his First Communion came the boy began to act up during the Mass. His father wrote: ‘I did some of my most desperate praying at that moment.’

They stepped forward for Communion. The host was placed into their son’s hand. Before they could stop him, the lad broke off two pieces and gave one each to his mother and father and then consumed his own portion. Back in the pew, he amazed and delighted them by asking when he could make his Communion again.

It seems to me that the boy had grasped deep down one aspect of the Eucharist: that in Christ, we belong together and we are drawn together in the mystery of communion itself, in which the life of Christ comes to each and every one of us in the sacramental grace of the Mass.

We ought to feel reassured by this promise of Christ, telling us that his life is in us. Yet there is also a challenge here, for Jesus also says that we are to be fruitful. His life is given to us is for a purpose. We hear in the second reading, 'Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active' (1 Jn 3.18). Sometimes the life of Christ is expressed in ordinary things, such as the routine renunciations which parents make as they deny themselves for the sake of the children. It can be found in the professional standards that people bring to their work, when they seek to deal with others as Christ would have them do, not only doing their job but seeking to serve God by doing the best that they can in their everyday employment. In these ways Christ is with us in the demands of everyday life.

On the other hand, sometimes the life of Christ is meant to help us break through the barriers of the ordinary and conventional, so that we find a healing gesture or prophetic word that goes against the grain of our times. It could not have been comfortable for the first Christians to hear that Paul, who had sought to kill them, was now a convert who was preaching Christ himself (Acts 9.26-31). They had doubts and fears.

But Barnabas listened to Paul, and helped the others to understand that Christ had seized Paul’s heart and that he was a changed man. It was a small, quiet act of reconciliation, with momentous consequences for the growing Church.

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.

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