Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
We are asked today through the readings to abide in Jesus as a condition to produce fruits of kindness, mercy, charity and holiness. I would like to share with you the story of astronaut Buzz Aldrin. He teaches the beauty of being connected to Jesus. The lunar module Eagle, carrying astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong, landed on the moon July 20, 1969. While Armstrong prepared for his moon walk, Aldrin unpacked bread and wine and put them on the abort guidance system computer. He describes what he did next. “I poured the wine into the chalice…In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon and the very first food eaten there were communion elements.” Just before eating and drinking the elements, Aldrin read this passage from the Gospel according to John: “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” Commenting on his Communion experience alone on the moon, Aldrin says, “I sense especially strongly my unity with our church back home, and the Church everywhere.” (Guideposts Treasury of Hope)
That story not only gives special meaning to today’s gospel but also underscores the way we, the branches, remain united with Jesus, the vine. We remain united to Jesus by three ways in particular: by gathering in his name, by listening to his word, and by sharing his Body and Blood. Concerning gathering in his name, Jesus told his disciples, “Where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.” Matt 18:20 When we gather in Jesus’ name, we have his promise that he’s there with us. Concerning reading and explaining his word, Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever listens to you listens to me.” Luke 10: 16 When we hear the Gospel read and explained, we have Jesus’ promise that we listen to him. Finally, concerning eating and drinking his Body and Blood, Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him.” John 6:56 When we share the Lord’s Supper, we have Jesus’ promise that he’s united with us. These are the three special ways, then, by which we remain united to Jesus: by gathering in his name, by listening to his word, and by sharing his Body and Blood.
If people today are to find Jesus, we, the Church, must make him visible to them. A teacher used to say to his students, “What if some unthinkable explosion destroyed all life on earth except for us, right here in this room. Where would the Church of Jesus be then?” The students would always think a minute. Then they would see the light. The Church of Jesus would be right there in their room. They would be the Church. That little experiment makes an important point. The Church is not a place where people gather. It’s the people who gather. The Church is not a place where people gather to pray. It’s the people who gather to pray. But note what we said! The Church is the people who gather. To have Church we must gather together. The Church is like the bread and wine that we use in the Eucharist. Hundreds of grains of wheat and hundreds of grapes had to be gathered to make them. It is the same with us. Only by gathering together do we become the Church of Jesus. Only by gathering together do we make Jesus’ Church visible to our world. Only by gathering together do we make the risen Jesus visible to our age. And so by gathering together we give visibility to Jesus and his Church. Each time we gather, we show people where they can find the risen Jesus in today’s world. This is one of the reasons Jesus said to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid…In the same way our light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:14,16
Lord, you are the vine and we are the branches. As the branches draw life from the vine, so we draw life from you. Lord, help us remain united to you always, by gathering in your name, by hearing your word, and by sharing your Body and Blood. For in this way we make you visible to our world. Lord, help us remember always that where your Church is, there you are.
God Bless You,