By Father Patrick Longalong
I grew up in an environment where parades and processions were common. It is one of the ways our community comes together either to witness to our faith or to celebrate a patriotic event. May is one of those months when we have religious processions almost every weekend to celebrate May Crowning or another Marian Devotion.
We often watched these processions pass in front of our house while admiring the intricate decorations and floral arrangements on the floats where the Blessed Mother and other religious images are displayed on pedestals. I remember one evening witnessing a lengthy procession showing different Marian images and with her various titles. The floats had ornate lighting that gives the images a life-like feeling as they pass you by on the street. I was in a sense of awe until there was a sudden commotion when the lights on one of the floats flickered and turned off. There were people pointing fingers as to who was responsible to make sure the generator powering the display had enough fuel to last the entire procession. It was not because there was a lack of it. It was just because someone neglected to maintain it.
That section of the religious parade continued to move forward in darkness while someone ran to get a gallon of fuel. Too often, we see this happen among us in different situations of life. Christians conking out in the middle of a parade. While the entire Church is continually moving forward in their journey, some people are held up waiting to get enough of God’s grace to start up again. Sometimes we neglect to maintain our connection to the source of our strength and power. It is true that we are saved by grace and not by works, but in our “actions and in truth” mentioned in the second reading this weekend (1 John 3:18) is how we show what we believe and at the same time strengthen it.
This Sunday’s Gospel gives us the image of Jesus as the vine and us being the branches. It is the key to ensuring that we remain powerful, life-giving, and fruitful disciples in today’s world. It is not how much we know about theology, how long we pray, nor what church group we are active in that makes us effective in the Christian life. The truth we are called to live this weekend is to abide in Christ.
How do we know that we are abiding in Christ? In general, we can see this in how we treat others. How do we show compassion for the poor and for those who are in need? Do we contribute to bring healing in our community suffering from various forms of pain created by sin and division? Everything that we do in the name of Jesus should bear good fruit. One such fruit is described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. “The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.”
Sometimes as workers in the vineyard we tend to focus too much on quantity. But quantity will come in time and according to God’s will. What we are asked to focus more on in the readings this weekend is the quality of the fruit we are producing. What quality of life are we living and producing in others? Are our relationships meaningful and healthy? When we are able to create these quality relationships, goodness and holiness flowing from Christ through us will enable effective invitation, participation, and living a life fully alive.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” It is a relationship of union. We live our lives as one and in support of each other. Our relationship with Jesus is the foundation of our relationship with one another.
Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Psalms 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32
1 John 3:18-24
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.