My father was a faithful husband and a wise father of 15 children whom he raised on a very rocky farm. His priorities were God, our mother and his children, but not the family vineyard.
He didn't take time to prune yearly, so the vines grew wild, climbing over the fence and up a neighboring apple tree. Meanwhile, our neighbors pruned their vines each February, and their efforts paid rich dividends. Their lush clusters of grapes were far more numerous.
The readings for the 4th Sunday of Easter speak about our present and our future. When Jesus tells His Jewish audience, "I have other sheep," He is referring to the non-Jews who will hear His word. That includes you and me.
Every day, Christ the Good Shepherd searches for us. You might say, "But I am baptized and I belong to Him." That is partially true. You have committed yourself to follow Him, but you don't fully understand what it means to follow Him.
The Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Easter sets the tone for the liturgy and for Christ's message to His Church. He opened disciples minds to understand the meaning of the Scriptures.
Two disciples, who left Jerusalem in confusion about the crucifixion, meet Jesus on the way to Emmaus. He opens their eyes and their hearts by telling them: "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into His glory?"
Imagine the great joy on Easter Sunday night when Christ made a surprise appearance to the frightened Apostles in the room where just a few days before He had celebrated the Last Supper with them.
So much had happened in the past three days. After the Last Supper, Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied Him three times, and the Apostles abandoned Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now they're gathered in the upper room with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. They're praying their hearts out when suddenly Christ appears, bearing His five wounds.
In the Easter Gospel, Mary of Magdala, Peter and John were stunned, confused, bewildered and perplexed when they found the tomb empty. Even though Christ had told them that He would rise from the dead, His words at that time were incomprehensible. The apostles had no previous experiences to which they could connect His words.
The revelation about His Resurrection is about to explode in their consciousness. John, the beloved disciple and the contemplative, is the first to comprehend. When he entered the tomb, "he saw and believed."
Holy Week is the greatest week of the liturgical year. Devotion to Christ's passion is essential for salvation. The paschal mystery describes the law of dying and rising that must direct our lives. The more deeply we enter into this paschal mystery, the more we will experience victory over sin. The more we enter into the love of Christ that powered Him through His passion, the more we move into a love that crowds out sin. That is the power of the cross of Christ.