Homilies

Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Sunday 29 April 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At any celebration of the Eucharist we find a wide diversity of people; age, attitude, social class, race, economic status, political choice. We have all come here because of Jesus Christ.

The prolific writer A. W. Tozer, who died in 1973, used this illustration to emphasise this point. “If you have one hundred concert pianos and you tune the second piano to the first, the third to the second and the fourth to the third until you have tuned all hundred pianos, you will still have discord and disharmony. But if you tuned each piano to the same tuning fork you would have unity and harmony; so too in the body of Christ. When we each tune ourselves and our life to Christ’s we will have unity.”

Tozer’s image of a hundred pianos tuned to the same tuning fork is like the image that Jesus uses of the vine. Many branches attached and reliant for life on the one vine. Jesus speaks of himself as the true vine, whereas the people of Israel had been unfaithful and were therefore a wild vine. Then he gives us some wonderful clues.

If we are part of the vine, then God the Father is the vinedresser, who ensures our continued fruitfulness by pruning away the barren branches and trimming clean the fruitful ones to make them even more fruitful.

In the Passion we see Jesus totally faithful to the will of the Father. We are reminded that if we listen to Jesus’ words, if we accept his presence living within us, then we will be one with Christ. Saint John reminds us in the second Reading, “Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active. Only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth.” (1 John 3:19.20) Our Lord’s own words, “Live in me and let me live in you, my branches bear much fruit.” (John 15:4.5)

Following again the parable of the vine, barren branches are people who have neither listened to Jesus’ word nor made a home for him within themselves.

For us in our human weakness, enlightened by the joy of the resurrection, making Jesus at home within ourselves is surely recognising our weakness - but sincerely, doggedly trying in words, deeds, family life, work, to make our life and his correspond, to make ourselves open to the inspirations of grace and the great opportunities for good. While barren branches have not heeded the Lord, bearing fruit in our life means our efforts to draw unbelievers to Christ to show Christian virtue and love.

In the second Reading Saint John makes the telling comment that it is possible to love one another only if there is a relationship with Jesus which motivates us. To live in Jesus means he is our closest friend and inspiration. He invites us into a new economy when by spiritual grace he draws us forward and helps us to see ourselves and our lives anew.

The ancient Greeks saw in the vine a symbol of immortality because of the sense of wellbeing which came from the wine, fruit of the vine, freeing us from care. Each of us does well to remember that with Jesus guiding us, no matter what challenges may come we will be fixed clearly on the hope that he gives, the goal that will be ours and the sustaining help that no one and nothing else can give, which comes from him, our Lord and Saviour.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.
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