I’ve recently been to my home town to visit my mum. Once it was a strategically important railway hub and military area; now it’s a small, unimportant town. Once it was a playground for an interested kid, nowadays it’s just a place of blurred memories. I left the town when I finished college and actually I’ve never really returned to it. My bonds with the people and the place have been loosened until they have practically faded away. However unpleasant it sounds – it’s just a place, visited without any personal excitement.
People make a place interesting; or more accurately: relationships turn even the dullest place into something exciting. My former primary school was a huge featureless building full of anonymous pupils; but classmates and some teachers turned it into a vibrant and lively space. Years later the building is still the same, but for me it’s a long dead place.
‘I’m the vine, you are the branches’. This is an image suggestive of our relationship with Jesus. This is the connection defining each one of us; the ultimate one that makes sense of coming along to church. The reason for being here tonight is our desire of maintaining, strengthening and developing this personal relationship with Jesus. When it fades away nothing else make sense: neither Christian spirituality nor Christian morality – they are empty without a strong, personal, loving relationship with our Lord. It cannot survive without our own careful involvement. It requires a very personal, even intimate response from each one of us.
This close relationship produces a whole lot of other ones – between you and other Christians, wherever they live in the world. We are linked spiritually together in and through Jesus, as each and every one of us has a personal relationship with him. So when we call others ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’, it’s not a rhetorical figure. We are not a collection of single beings selfishly and independently connected to Jesus, but a spiritual organism affecting each another, more or less directly.
‘Whoever remains in me, bears fruit in plenty’. What fruit? ‘Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active’ as we heard in the second reading today. Recent collections for the missions or for SCIAF have shown that our love is something real and active. We are so brilliantly good! Or are we? Have you got no resentments, bitterness or disappointments? Don’t you think that some other members of our parish community are better avoided? Sometimes we are very good at pruning our own wounded feelings and pride. This is a dead end. Literally. Because it might mean that this church will be beautiful, but empty. People make the place exciting. Each one of us does it.