Sunday, May 3, 2015

We Can Do It...But We Can't Do It Alone

5th Sunday Easter - Year B - 2015

‘So…this guy is walking along the sidewalk, and he falls down into a hole.  He spends several hours trying to get out but he can’t – the walls are just too steep.  All of a sudden, the man sees one of his friends coming toward him who jumps down into the hole.  The man looks disbelievingly at his friend and says, ‘What in the world are you doing?  Now we’re both stuck down here!’  His friend looks back and says, ‘Don’t worry – I've been down in this hole before and I know the way out.’

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We’re all like that at some time or another.  Trying to do it all alone.  We've got it all figured out – we don’t need anyone’s help.  At most, we just need everyone around us to do what we want them to do, including God.  We pretend we’re asking for help, but what we’re really doing is expecting others to become extensions of our own power and will.  We don’t really want help – we just want them to play our game for us in our way, based on our own experience, on our timetable.  In our prayer we make God into a supernatural Santa Claus, putting Him on our payroll – not really seeking His help at all.

When things seem to get ‘stuck’ we wonder why it’s not working.  Why things aren't progressing.  Why nothing is growing or improving.  We either fail to ask for help, pretending we can do it all on our own; or we reject the help that’s offered because it doesn't fit our view of what we want or need – oblivious to the reality that the experience and wisdom of others is often the greatest help we need.

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Jesus teaches us an important lesson in the Gospel today.  “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bare much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”  That’s another way of saying, ‘You can’t accomplish anything without my help.’  When Jesus reminds us that a branch cannot bare fruit apart from the vine, He’s reminding us that we need the grace, hope, joy, and wisdom of God in order to bare fruit – in order to climb out of the holes we've fallen into, in order to grow spiritually as individuals and as a parish.  We need Him, and we need one another.  Since God Himself is a community of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He made us in His own image to need help to survive and thrive.  We need help – and we need to help; we need help from God, and from one another.

Whatever it is, we can do it – but we can’t do it alone.
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There’s a beautiful part of the prayers of the Mass that many folks never hear; it is part of what some call the priest’s ‘private prayers’ that takes place while the bread and wine are being prepared.  You’ve probably noticed the priest mix a small bit of water with the wine just before He offers it in Thanksgiving to the Father. There is a prayer that’s said while he mixes the two:  ‘By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share our humanity.’  That small action in our liturgy honors a profound tenet of our faith:  Jesus jumped down into the hole with us.  ‘Don’t worry,’ Jesus says, ‘I've been down here before…I know the way out.  Looks like you need a little help.’

All over the country, young people are celebrating their First Holy Communion these days.  If there is one lesson – one idea – one concrete notion I hope these young disciples have learned is that Jesus loves us so much, He comes down here where we are – He comes right here in a special way every time we’re at Mass – He comes to us hiding in what looks like bread and wine – He loves us so much that He comes right to where we are to help us live life, avoid sin, experience joy, and love others.  In Holy Communion He comes to help us in the most special way possible.

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Whatever it is, we can do it – but we can’t do it alone.

What’s going well in your life?  In the life of your family?  What’s going well in the life of our parish?  We’re going to find that whatever is going well in this life, we’re asking for and making good use of the help of God and others in that undertaking – and (as a way of remaining a part of the whole vine, we’re offering help back to others or our parish as well).  And the reverse is just as true – whatever isn’t going so well in our lives or the life of our family or our parish, we’re not asking for or making good use of help, or there aren't enough of us willing to help out.

What help do you need?  What help do others need from you?

Whatever it is, we can do it – but we can’t do it alone.

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