Dependence and Freedom

(Homily for Fifth Sunday of Easter)

Jesusī parable of the vine and the branches ties in beautifully with Motherīs Day. The relationship of a mother and her pre-born child is one of total dependence. Even after birth, a human child depends upon his mother for nourishment, care and education.

Today Jesus tells us that something similar applies to our relationship with him: we are the branches; he is the vine. As long as we are joined with him, we will develop and produce something of great value. If a Christian separates himself from Jesus, he will simply wither and die.

This is a difficult parable for us because of our modern idea of freedom. As Pope John Paul pointed out, modern man considers freedom to mean independence - the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want - with no external constraints. There is, of course, some truth in this view of freedom: none of us should impose unnecessary restraints on others. Nevertheless, this view of freedom does not get to the heart of the human person. For us as Christians, freedom means becoming the person I was meant to be.

A man can say, "I earned my money and I am going to spend it any way I wish. If I want to go out gambling, I free to do that. If want to take drugs or watch pornography, I will do that." That man is not free; he is a slave.

Recently I had a conversation with young couple. The husband had achieved three monthes of sobriety. The first step for the husband was to recognize he was powerless before alcohol and that he needed the help of a higher power. His wife, of course, was delighted, but it was not completely easy for her. Before her husband achieved sobriety, he was like one more child. Now she had to step back and let him take more responsibility for the family. Al-Anon helped her greatly. She discovered her own true freedom in relation to a husband who was becoming more responsible.

C.S. Lewis said: "We are not made for equality. We are made for obedience and worship." A branch is not equal to the vine even though they share a similar nature. A child before - and after - birth is not equal to his mother, even though they share the same human nature. It is true that as we mature, we achieve a certain degree of independence. Still, no one ever becomes totally independent. The illusion of independence is easily broken by an illness or some misfortune. The truth is that as we realize our true selves, we recognize a deeper dependence - on our fellow human beings and upon Christ.

He is the vine; we are the branches. If we remain united to him, we will bear much fruit.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B):

2015: Disciple Makers Week 5: All We Can Ask
2012: Boldly in the Name of the Lord
2009: Because We Keep His Commandments
2006: Dependence and Freedom
2003: Ask Whatever You Want
2000: Fatima Prophecies & the Vine Dresser

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