Gospel John 15:1-8
When we celebrate a jubilee of 50 years, we then realise that we are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. May I ask who was here 50 years ago to help build this Church? Part of our task this morning is to thank those who were here and made it possible for us who came later on to be able to gather in this Church and worship God. And so we thank all those who went before us and those who are still here, who contributed towards building, not only the bricks but also building the community that continues to worship in this Church.
What are we to think about when we celebrate 50 years? There are many things, but I propose we think about our faith, see our faith as a journey over this past 50 years. A journey of a community worshipping together or of an individual’s growth in faith. There are various images and the first one that comes to mind is in the prayer, the Collect of this Mass – Baptism. We have been taught that through Baptism we are inserted, incorporated, made members of the Body of Christ. So you could look at your journey, this is my Baptism up to today. How closer has that journey brought me to Christ? Do I feel, to use the language of St Paul to the Galatians, that I have put on Christ? Alternatively, St Paul says, it is no longer I but Christ who lives in me. Do I feel, during this journey, that it is Christ who lives in me? If Christ lives in me, it means He directs my life, shapes my life and conditions my life. When we receive the Eucharist, we truly believe that this is the Body and Blood of Christ and therefore we are receiving Christ Himself. With Baptism we say we are members of the Body of Christ, with the Eucharist we say we receive the living Body and Blood of Christ. The question is, during this journey of faith do I feel that as I receive and eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, does that shape my being, my moral outlook? Does it make me one with Christ and one of Christ? Do I feel closer and closer to Christ?
St Paul says, I feed you with milk because you cannot chew the meat. In other words, I am teaching you about the mysteries of the faith step by step, slowly. When you are ready then I will feed you with meat. And so we ask ourselves today on this journey of faith, have I grown, have I graduated with the grappling of the teachings of Christ? I might have grown physically in the last 50 years but I may be still feeding on milk as far as my faith is concerned. I do not show that I have absorbed the virtues and teachings of Christ; I am not yet an adult in the faith, I am still a child.
Today the Gospel suggests another image – Christ says, I am the vine and you are the branches. If we are the branches then surely the vine must feed on the stem for the branches. We feel we are being fed when we identify with the life of the vine, when we identify truly with the life of Christ.
So after 50 years we should be able to make an evaluation, an assessment in our faith. This celebration is an invitation to think about these images and to see whether we have made a reasonable effort to claim and be able to say, I am a Christian. Am I able to say that without a shadow of doubt? Am I a follower and a disciple of Christ? Am I satisfied that I tried every day to live like a Christian, to do good, to be kind to others and to follow the teachings of the Gospel? If we have done that then we should be happy to celebrate 50 years.
Perhaps we should say that if we have not made an assessment of ourselves over these 50 years, if we haven’t done much, then the jubilee is an invitation to each one of us to become what we claim to be – Christians. Let us try to become truly like Christ.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.