Saturday, May 5, 2012

Remaining in Christ the Vine

When in the Gospel (John 15:1-8) for this 5th Sunday of Easter (Year B) Jesus exhorts us to remain in Him as branches in the vine, there are a multitude of points for meditation and more than one challenge for us to change, grow or move from wherever we might happen to be stuck at a given point in time. The Gospel is an essential statement about where true and everlasting life is to be found and namely anchored in the Vine Who is Christ.

As much off on a tangent as the thought may be I couldn't help but reflect on how clearly the words of Jesus are an exhortation to us personally to examine ourselves as branches and to see that we are truly grafted in tight, solidly to the vine. The Vine-dresser alone, of course, can judge whether the graft has taken and whether the life of sanctifying grace courses through us or not, but the urgency in Christ's words to each of us branches, that we strive to remain firmly attached, is unmistakable.

I haven't commented here on all the news of late about the status of efforts toward the achievement of full reconciliation between the SSPX and the Catholic Church just because it is not my place to comment. I think it is great that a much more general urgency about this hoped for reconciliation seems to be abroad in the Church. If only we could bring everyone who claims to follow Jesus home to the fullness of life and truth in communion with the successor of St. Peter! Apart from "anonymous christian" theories propagated by dead theologians, I think it more than safe to say that, leaving Final Judgment to the One seated upon the clouds of heaven, I can judge my own rootedness in Christ, my firm attachment to the Vine, from my integration into His Holy Catholic Church (How does the Latin go? "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus est"?).

Although the Church certainly has the power to bind and loose, I wish to give pride of place in this little meditation to Christ's exhortation to all who hear Him to remain in Him. I think it important to be an encouragement to all genuine or honest hearers of the Word, who seek to conform themselves to the Will of Christ and seek an ever deeper and more faithful rootedness in Him. Once before at least I expressed the wish that we could get to a point where we could express our differences on matters not defined de fide and do so in the grand old tradition of the lively controversies of the theological schools of bygone days. I know from the research for my own doctoral dissertation that much of what the Council of Trent affirmed was a repetition of efforts by earlier Councils, but which didn't seem to take prior to Trent. As a proud canonist, I believe that post-conciliar legislation was a big part of Trent's success, read "its reception into the life of the Church". We continue to mine those older Councils for their riches, but the living patrimony which carried us for nearly half a millennium has the Council of Trent as its keystone. Fifty years after the opening of Vatican II may still be too soon to judge if its documents will be a keystone or, more modestly, one of many vital sources for the Church's life and teaching. Let the debate or analysis continue within the living tradition of the Church, which like the good steward certainly knows how to bring out of the storehouse good things both old and new!




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