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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - How to Know Christ Is Alive in You

Robert Barron - How to Know Christ Is Alive in You

Robert Barron - How to Know Christ Is Alive in You

Peace be with you. Friends, we’ve come now to the fifth Sunday of Easter. So we're entering the sort of end of the Easter season, these Sundays five, six, and seven. And if the first Sundays of Easter gave us a chance to meditate upon the strangeness and radicality of the Resurrection, these last Sundays allow us to meditate more deeply on the implications of the Resurrection. What does it mean to live in the space opened up by the risen Christ? We'll be reading now these next weeks from the marvelous farewell discourse of Jesus. So if you look in chapters, 14, 15, 16, and 17, four entire chapters of John's Gospel, you find by far the longest speech of Jesus in any of the Gospels.

The setting is the Last Supper, and we don't find in John the institution narrative: Jesus taking the bread and taking the wine, "This is my body, my blood". You don't find that in John. You find the foot washing, unique to him, and then you find this lengthy discourse of the Lord. Can I recommend to everybody: now as the Easter season's coming to a close, spend some time with those four chapters of John. Read them thoroughly, read them in a meditative, prayerful way, because in many ways, I think the whole of the Christian spiritual life emerges out of this meditation. Well, for today, we have this marvelous image. Here it is. "I am the vine," Jesus says, "and my father…the vine grower…. Remain in me, as I remain in you".

Now, something of Christian distinctiveness is on display here. We do indeed have within Christianity a tradition of referring to Jesus as Master or teacher, and to those of us who follow him as disciples or learners, and that's altogether right. But here's the problem. All sorts of other religious figures could be seen as a master who has disciples. Even someone like Socrates, the philosopher, could be seen as the teacher who has disciples or followers. "Disciple" from "discere" in Latin just means to learn, right? Teacher and learners. Nothing wrong with that when it comes to Christianity, but it doesn't go deep enough, because in Christianity, we have not simply a relationship of student to teacher when it comes to Jesus. Rather, we participate organically in him.

Let me say that again. He's not just our teacher, not just our moral exemplar, not someone we'd simply imitate from a historical distance. We live in him. We are rooted and grounded in him. I've talked before about that lovely verb in Greek "menein," "to remain," and you see it here. It runs up and down John's Gospel. "To remain in me, to be grounded in me, derive your life from me". That's the way a Christian relates to Jesus. We live because of him. Listen to this: "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". This is much more radical than simply, "Unless you follow my teaching like a good disciple…" Mm-mm. "Unless you are grafted onto me in such a way, that your life comes from my life…"

Now can you see this wonderful Catholic spirituality of the sacraments? I mean, if Jesus' teaching were enough, well then just listening to sermons and going to theology class I suppose would be enough. But no, in the Catholic dispensation, the sacraments, what are those? The means by which we are grafted onto the life of Christ, the means by which he begins to live his life in us. That's what Baptism means. Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, the Eucharist, all these ways of participating in his life: that's what Christianity is finally about. Now, once we see this principle, we can understand something of enormous importance. I remember, my friend Fr. Paul Murray, who's the great Dominican spiritual master, he expressed it once this way: "Jesus wants to live his life in you".

That’s very simple to say, but think about that. Jesus wants to live his life in you. Again, not just a matter of, "Oh, he's a great teacher and I listen to him". No, no; much more radical, dramatic than that. You're the branch, he's the vine. His life wants to flow into you, so that he lives out even now, through you, his life. That's Christian spirituality. Now, once we get that, I think the Christian life opens up. "What's my life all about"? Well, not just being a good disciple who attends to the teachings of Jesus, but rather someone who in his or her own life, is becoming the vehicle by which Christ is living his life in the world even now.

A little while ago, I happened to come across this little video from Bill Burr, the comedian. I don't know if you know him, kind of a brash, sarcastic comedian. And judging from his name and from what he said, I'm gathering he's a Catholic, because he talked about, "Ah, I don't get it. You go to church and you hear these stories about Jesus, and you've heard them a million times, and he's not coming back yet, and so what's the point"? And I thought, "No, no; you're missing the point". The point is those stories are not just, oh, nice tales about someone that lived long ago, or nice moral exemplars for us to follow. Those stories are the template by which we understand our lives even now.

As we watch what he said and did, we understand the dynamics of our own spiritual life. And for us Catholics, who've been baptized, and received the Eucharist and the other sacraments... see, Christ is living his life in us. So how do we interpret what happens to us? See, that's the key. So I'm going to give you just a couple simple examples here in the few minutes I've got. What's one thing we know about Jesus for sure? He was a friend of sinners. Not a sinner. No, no; he's the sinless one. But he likes sinners. Jesus spent time with sinners. He ate and drank with them, he associated with them. "I've come not for the healthy, but for the sick".

So if Jesus wants to live his life in you right now, well then, you're meant to become a friend of sinners. I mean, there are way too many of us, I suppose, within the Christian and Catholic dispensation, we love to judge sinners. Well, I mean, Jesus did that too, but only in the interest of drawing them into his friendship. He didn't stand at a distance passing judgment. No, no; his point was to draw them into his life. So how much time do you spend with sinners? Not judging them, but trying to draw them into a better life? Jesus was a friend of sinners, so we who live in him are meant to be friends of sinners. Jesus very clearly was a healer. So up and down the Gospels, over and over again, Jesus heals.

Now, there are some people, I've met a few in my life, they're very, very rare, but there are some people I think who have the charism of actual physical healing. I don't deny that for a minute. But the vast majority of us don't have that particular charism. But may I suggest: everyone baptized into Christ Jesus is meant to be a healer, someone who brings peace, and comfort, and deeper life to those around him or her. Here's a little rubric I would suggest to you. At the end of the day, do a little review of your day, a sort of examination of conscience. Ask the simple question: "Were people more alive? Were they healthier? Were they healed because of my presence? Or was my presence today", now, let's be honest, fellow sinners, about this, "Was my presence today for people more of a wounding presence"?

You know what I mean. We all fall into this trap. Jesus was a healer. He wants to live his life in you. So then, you become a healer. You become a bearer of life and health to those around you. Third thing we know for sure about Jesus: he was a preacher. So from the moment we encounter him on the hills of Galilee, he's preaching. What do we hear over and over again? Jesus went from town to town preaching. He left that place because he said "I’ve got to go preachand proclaim elsewhere". He was a proclaimer of the kingdom of God. Okay. All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, we're like branches, he's the vine; we're grafted onto him; he's trying to live his life in us. Therefore, we have to be teachers.

Now, some will do so explicitly, and can I summon some listening to me right now? We need catechism teachers at all levels of the Church's life. Do it. Do it. Maybe that's your special charism. But can I suggest: every baptized person is meant to be a teacher, someone who speaks the truth of the kingdom of God, someone who speaks about Jesus. Maybe ask this question at the end of the day: "Did people know more about Jesus and his kingdom today because of me? Did I teach the faith"? And I don't mean in some browbeating way. I mean, I get it, not to be aggressive about it and overbearing. But have we so taken in the etiquette of our society that says, "Privatize your religion. Don't talk about religion".

Well then, I'm not letting Christ live his life in me if I privatize my religion. No, no; I’m meant to proclaim it, yes, even from the housetops. Do people know more about Jesus and his kingdom because of you? That's a good question to test whether he's living his life in us. Just a last thing that I want to reflect on, and maybe it's the most important, because gosh, we all wrestle with this, because we all suffer. Something I've found in my years of preaching, the minute you mention suffering, everyone's ears perk up. Everyone begins to listen in a fresh way, because we all suffer. How do we read our suffering? "Ah, just dumb, bad luck. It's just the way it goes, and I've just been abandoned, and I'm stuck here in my physical, or psychological, or emotional pain".

Or do I read it this way: Jesus is endeavoring to live his life in me, and his life conduced toward his suffering and death on the cross, and by that suffering and death, Jesus redeemed the world. Might my suffering, and at all different levels, I know; people listening to me right now, you're suffering at different levels and different degrees of intensity, might I interpret it as Jesus living his cross in me even now, so that my suffering is contributing maybe in a manner that I can't entirely see, but is contributing to the salvation of the world? Dumb suffering, just dumb evil? No, no; John Paul II was so good on this, wasn't he? He said, "Never pass up the opportunity when you suffer".

He didn't mean that masochistically; he meant, never pass up the opportunity to interpret that suffering as a participation in the suffering of Christ. He wants to live his life in you. You're the branch, he's the vine; so of course we suffer in this life, because the Master suffered. Take a look at this image, everybody. Internalize it. He's the vine, we're the branches. And then use that to understand the whole of your life, Jesus endeavoring to live his life right now in you. And God bless you.
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