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Protecting the Freedom of Holiness

I am the vine, you are the branches.

A reflection from Father Tudgay for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

There are many images that are used throughout the Gospels that Jesus uses to describe the interior life of God’s grace that is at work within believers in Jesus Christ. One of those images, which is not given to us this Sunday, is the image that comes to us from Chapter 13 of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, the Pearl of Great Price. Essentially, Jesus is trying to underscore the crucial importance of the need to protect and preserve the life of God’s grace that is present and operative in us, notably, through our reception of the Church’s Sacraments.  


From this perspective, the Easter Season is a time of gratitude where reflect on the enormity of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection from the dead. This resurrected life – the life of God in our soul – is the sublime gift that the Christian Faith is to us. All of our actions and the principle by which we make our choices, ideally, flow from God’s life within us. Yet, we know that, despite our best efforts, our choices may not always reflect the presence of God within. Moreover, history also illustrates choices that certain Christians have made that are, sadly, diametrically opposed to the values of the Gospel. There are also times when Christians come across as hypocrites. What gives, then? Is there something wrong with the Christian Faith? Let’s let the image from this weekend’s Gospel walk us through this apparent contradiction. 


As we move through the Easter Season, the Gospel Passages instruct on the ways of holiness. This weekend brings us the continuation of the familiar image of the Vines and the Branches, but with a caveat: the need to be pruned! If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that there is a need for periodic pruning in our spiritual and moral lives, a sacramental “house cleaning”. The need to prune and to sort out the weeds illustrates the need to pay close attention to the delicate, vulnerable presence of God within, which can so easily be ignored and snuffed out. 


The impact of the image given to us this weekend is real: our faith comes to us exclusively through Christ’s death and resurrection and should not, under any circumstances, be taken for granted. The gift of God’s grace in us is the very reality that transforms us, brings us peace, and instills a life of virtue. It’s delicate and must be protected as the pearl of great price. Each encounter with Christ in any Sacrament captures a unique expression of the entirety of his Paschal Mystery. As our discipleship with Christ grows and deepens, so, too, does our appreciation and reverence for his resurrected life in our souls. Our goal? To look to Christ within, seeking to do his will in all things. His presence within is a gift beyond belief, to be reverenced, cherished, and lived in our world! 

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