Something really important is happening tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. A sneaky question in a priest’s homily a couple of weeks ago ties in perfectly with today’s Gospel reading.
It was a first communion Mass for an enthusiastic group of second graders on a Saturday morning. During a wonderfully interactive homily, the priest asked a trick question: “So, when is your second communion?”
There was a little bit of mumbling among the students until one little second grader blurted out with concern, “We don’t have one!” The priest playfully replied, “Oh yes you do. You just failed second grade!” Because the next day was Sunday, he explained that their second communion was going to be tomorrow.
In the story of the vine and the branches, we hear that faith is indeed an important first step toward salvation. But it is not the only step. Through faith we also need to bear fruit through our actions and our deeds.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. – John 15:2
Receiving a sacrament is powerful and amazing whether it’s a major milestone like baptism or first communion, or the regular (and no less powerful and amazing) encounter with Christ through communion every Sunday. But the Lord expects us to do more than that tomorrow and beyond.
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither.
– John 15:4-6
Sometimes it is really easy to live in the present and forget about tomorrow. The question in that homily reminded me of my own first communion which, along with my baptism and confirmation, took place eleven years ago at the Easter Vigil.
During a dress rehearsal the day before, the pastor and I were standing in front the full-immersion baptismal font where he would soon be dunking me, and he said, “You’ll have to be holy now.” I replied, “That’s the plan.”
The Easter Vigil Mass was the culmination of a lengthy process: a lifetime mostly without faith followed by a roller coaster ride towards God. The previous year going through RCIA was both exhilarating and exhausting, all in anticipation of that big night.
Receiving the sacraments at the Easter Vigil in 2005 sure felt like the celebratory end of an unfathomable journey. But in reality, it was just the beginning.
The Lord expected, and still expects, a lot more from me and all of us. Getting to that point is just half the battle. There’s so much more work to do tomorrow and every day after that.
If we are the branches that bear God’s fruit, then He’s going to keep pruning today so that we will keep bearing.
See you tomorrow.