It is an all too common sight: Before a teacher asks a question, a young student already has their hand up to answer it! In today's Gospel we have a similar situation. Will we stand before the Lord and tell him all the great things we have done without ever having asked him what he wanted us to do?
Lord, Lord, what must I do? This is a good question. But before I can do something, I need to be someone. So the first question ought to be, “Lord, Who must I be?” Once answered, then I will know “what I must do.”
“I am the vine, you are the branches, says the Lord; whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.”
How simple it sounds: Remain in me, says the Lord, because the Lord wishes to remain in me. This is the land I must inhabit. This is the Promised Land: Remain in me and I will remain in you. To be one with the Lord or not to be is the ultimate question!
After forty long years, the Promised Land was no longer a promise but a reality. They had arrived. The Lord had been faithful to His people. It is all true: I will be your God and you will be my people. What more could they want. What more did they need?
They needed the Commandments, and they needed them greatly because they were living them badly. What I never realized before is that without the Commandments, the Promised Land would quickly turn into another Egypt. The Jews would become slaves again; slaves to their own passions, emotions and disorders. Slaves in their own sins! No land is a Promised Land unless it is rich in love, and there is no love without justice! There is no love without Christ.
The Lord has revealed to all the nations that the true Promised Land has little to do with a physical location and everything to do with a spiritual reality. To be happy, I do not have to be in the Perfect Home – beach front property! Nor do I have to seek the Perfect School. Or be in the Perfect Family. It is an illusion in the desert to think I must have the Perfect Friendship or Courtship or Marriage. Nor should I seek the Perfect Grades, Perfect Figure, or Perfect Car.
There is one thing I should seek: Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all its righteousness. The problem is…it sounds boring!
But God is not boring. I may be boring but God is definitely not boring! Christ’s life was far from boring. It was enriching! It was full of adventure. Living, sharing the love of God and neighbor will bring you to the greatest surprises EVER! We do not give God a chance to be God. We shout back when angered. We punch back when attacked. We fall apart when offended. We do not allow the Lord to take custody of his property and allow it to bear fruit! We do not allow others to see or to discover what God can do through us. For this reason, it took the Jews forty years to discover who they were and who God is. Way too long. We should know better. We should not think that we know ourselves at ten, or eighteen, or even thirty. I am not the man I used to be, not at all! It took me some time to figure it all out.
The only short-cut to the Promised Land is the immediate acceptance of God as God and I am His. He is the Vine; I am a branch. I have life through Him. Before the storms come and the trees fall, I must bear in mind Jalisa Granger, the 21 year old woman from Louisiana who died yesterday when a tornado tore apart her little home and a tree fell upon her as she lay upon her child. She knew the Master well. She died and the child lived. It is the perfect image and reflection of God’s love for us. That is, how a tree quickly became a Cross that killed and saved at the same time.
This is all the Lord asks from us: Be one with me.
It still has the same affect it did two thousand years ago: It makes us cry with joy.