Sacraments of Grace
May 13, 2020
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
Opening Prayer: God my Father, thank you for this parable of the vine and the branches. Let me never forget that you are the vine grower; you are my Father in heaven, you and your Son Jesus Christ are one. Enable me to bear much fruit, all to your greater glory!
1. Baptism: “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments” (CCC 1213). In other words, Baptism makes us branches of the true vine, Jesus Christ. Every sacrament gives grace, but Baptism also imprints a permanent mark, or character, on our soul, configuring us to Christ in a very special way. That’s why Baptism is not repeated. It seals us for all time as Christians, as members of the mystical Body of Christ, branches in the vine. This character signals a new and dynamic capacity given by the Holy Spirit to both receive his spiritual gifts and fully participate in the liturgy of the Church. The Lord asks us to be faithful to our Baptism by remaining in him.
2. Reconciliation: It’s true that Baptism forgives us all our sins, but it does not erase concupiscence. We sin again. But Jesus entrusted to his apostles and their successors the power to bind and loose sins on earth, an ancient mandate that has eventually taken its present form in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is never easy to admit our sins; it feels like we are being pruned. But when the priest pronounces the words of absolution, we are set free. “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” God has cut off the dead branches of our sins and cast them into the fire. Grace flows through us like sap, and we are united more closely to the vine. Christ insisted, “A branch cannot bear fruit on its own.” We must remember that any habits, ideas, actions, or objects we possess that separate us from him are useless. We can ask ourselves, “Do I try to keep something for myself, on the side, apart from Christ?& rdquo; For this we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
3. Eucharist: The Eucharist is “the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1325). The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Communion; not only are all the branches connected to the vine, but through the vine they are also all connected to each other. When we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we are united to our mystical Head as well as to all the members of his Body. The Eucharist sanctifies the world; the Eucharist gives glory to the Father and the Spirit; the Eucharist lets us bear fruit! It is clear from today’s Gospel that God wants us to bear fruit; if we fill ourselves with Christ, the fruit which grows naturally from us will be Christian.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I am very glad we have the sacraments, outward signs you have instituted to give us grace. Inspire in me the desire to be faithful to my baptismal promises, knowing that the best way to achieve this is through frequent humble Confession and worthy reception of the Eucharist.
Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will take some extra time to prepare myself well for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
For Further Reflection: For a better appreciation of God’s saving work on earth through the “sacramental economy,” read the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1076-1134.