CATHOLIC WOMEN’S LEAGUE - Annual Conference Mass
17th May, 2017
Acts 15: 1-6 John 15:1-8
Contained in the Acts of the Apostles, is much for us to learn from the experience of the early Church. There is certainly a need for continuity, if the Church is to retain its identity and its links with its origins. That is why the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the foundation on which our faith is built and why we need to come back to them all the time.
It is clear from St Luke’s account in our first reading, that there was a deep conflict between some of the early Christians. There will always be a measure of tension between these two movements, the fundamentalist and the progressive. What is vital, is that people on each side be open to frank and undertake sincere dialogue. In spite of serious differences, we see that dialogue taking place in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
Bringing our thoughts forward to today, as Pope Francis likes to remind us, to be fruitful as Christians, means that we are filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. This is not mere external happiness and superficial smiles, but the deep joy of belonging to God, of being united to Christ in love; of being Christian. This is the kind of joy that enables countless Christians down the centuries to this day, to faithfully endure even suffering and the chalice of martyrdom.
Thus all who drink deeply from Christ’s chalice, who really share in the fruit of the true Vine, will also experience the deep joy of sacrificial love, of being poured out for the good of others. I guess that is very relevant to members of the CWL, as in addressing social justice and ethical questions as one of your primary tasks, I am sure that you know what it is to sacrifice your own needs as you choose to undertake many acts of service to others.
To promote the teaching of Christ and his Church concerning the dignity, integrity and freedom of the human person; and to promote and support the formation of women to meet contemporary challenges, is truly a vocation so important in our times. However, in our acts of love and service, we find salvation. The imagery of the vine and branches shows that this is through our union with Christ who is Love.
In the Gospel Jesus compares himself to a vine tree. The passage comes from the long discourse which Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper on the eve of his suffering and death.
He begins by saying, “I AM the True Vine.” It is the last of seven ‘I AM’ statements made by Jesus in the course of John’s gospel. The ‘I AM’ is the name of God and makes one think of the time when Moses was before the burning bush from which a voice came telling him to undertake the mission of liberating his people from slavery in Egypt. God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’.”
In the passage of our reading today, Jesus speaks of himself as the True Vine, or rather as the main stem or trunk of the vine. On the vine there are many branches. Some of these branches are laden down with fruit, while others may not produce any fruit at all. But even the branches which bear fruit will be pruned so that they will produce even more fruit.
This pruning can be identified with the trials that even the most committed of Christians is bound to experience in the living of a Christ-centred life. On the other hand, no branch can bear any fruit at all unless it is part of the vine. So, let us examine our lives and consider: What do we need to prune? And then, let us offer this to the Father, asking for his mercy and grace. We need to let God prune us and to ask him to give us the courage and generosity to accept the pain of this pruning.
It all clearly applies to our relationship with Christ. Separated from him, we are not able to bear fruit. He is the source of all our life and of every good thing we do. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” A branch that becomes separated from the trunk that is Jesus, will wither and die. It will only be of use for the bonfire.
We must stay united to Jesus Christ if we are to bear any good fruit in our relationship with the Blessed Trinity. We must also persevere in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, which will assist the efficacy of our prayers to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So today, we ask a blessing on the works performed by the members of the Catholic Women’s League. We pray that, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and through the intercession of Mary, Help of Christians; all members will have the courage and generosity to faithfully fulfil their role in the CWL and that more women will become participating members of the Catholic Women’s League. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.