May 8, 2009

Fifth Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles again this Easter season is the source of the first reading for Sunday.

This weekend’s reading from Acts highlights Paul. In an earlier passage, not read in this liturgy, the intensely devoted Jew, Paul, after having persecuted Christians, experiences the presence of Jesus in a stunning way on the road to Damascus.

Paul completely converts to Christianity. Eventually, the Christian community accepts him, although—understandably given his previous hostility to Christ—some Christians had been nervous about accepting him into their midst.

As had happened, and as would happen again, Paul’s new Christian intensity made enemies for him. Fellow Christians took him for his own safety to Caesarea, the Roman capital of Palestine, a place now in ruins on the outskirts of modern Tel Aviv.

From Caesarea, a seaport, the Christians sent him home to Tarsus, again to safeguard his personal security. It would eventually be the beginning of Paul’s ministry.

For the second reading this Easter weekend, the Church offers a selection from the First Epistle of John.

The epistle refers to its readers as “little children.” Obviously, adults composed the epistle’s audience, or most of the audience. Still, the epistle employs this term of endearment.

Those who follow Jesus indeed are God’s “little children.” However, it is more than a term of affection. Humans, regardless of their age, are children of God. Moreover, humans, again regardless of their age, are as naïve and inexperienced as children. It is not a foolish comparison. Humans simply are limited.

St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

This reading also is a gem. It was part of the long discourse by Jesus given to the Apostles at the Last Supper.

This reading has a deeply eucharistic undertone. In the sequence of events, at the supper Jesus gave the Twelve the wine that miraculously had become, through the Lord’s power, the blood of Christ.

Wine, of course, then as now, is the product of grapes. Grapes grow on vines.

In this reading, Jesus says, “I am the true vine.” God placed Jesus in the vineyard that is humanity.

Jesus warns that no vine can bear fruit if it separates itself from the true vine of God. Without God, humans are subject to confusion and finally to death.

Drinking the wine that is no longer wine, but the blood of Jesus, is the source of true strength and enduring life.


In Acts, First John and the Gospel, the Church calls us to absolute faith in, and deep love for, God in Jesus.

Easter celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, the divinity of Jesus, and the eternal life and power of Jesus.

Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith and of our lives.

Part of the Lord’s legacy is the Church. The Church does not, or should not, mean an earthly, visible entity that we can take or leave. If we are with Christ, if we follow Christ, then we are part of the Church.

As the Mystical Body of Christ, a phrase so rich in its references to Paul’s own thoughts, followers of Jesus are branches of the one, divinely planted vine that is Jesus the Lord.

This Church offers us the fruit of God’s vine, the wine that is the blood of Christ.

As Pope John Paul II said, the Eucharist is the heart and source of true Christian life, strength and growth.

On this weekend, the Church again invites us to celebrate the fact that Jesus overcame death. He lives!

However, Jesus lives not afar and beyond our reach. If we drink the wine that has become in the Eucharist the Blood of Christ, then we are branches, intimately and inseparable a part of the divine vine that is Jesus, the Son of God. †

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