The nineteenth-century British theologian Hugh Mackintosh, in his famous work on the person of Christ, says this: “It is not putting it too strongly to say that union with Christ is a brief name for all that the apostles mean by salvation.” Through our union with Christ, what is true of him becomes true of us. By the work of the Spirit, Christ lives in us and we in him, and we partake of all his riches.
When I was chaplain at Roncalli High School, Janice Gabe, a psychologist and therapist working out of Fairbanks Hospital, came to speak on the topic, “Raising Resilient Kids in the 90’s”. She spoke about her work with kids who get involved in subculture activities, like gangs and cults. She also spoke about kids who are able to resist that kind of life, even though they may live in neighborhoods that would put them at risk for getting involved.
If I had to boil down her message to a couple of sentences it would be this. Kids who give in to the lure of subcultures usually do not belong to a community which reinforces traditional, healthy values and life-skills. Kids who can resist destructive influences in their lives tend to live in neighborhoods where they have community support. What Dr. Gabe was saying is reinforced by an old African proverb: It takes a whole village to raise a child.
Her message reminds me, too, that remaining in Jesus, living his life and staying close to him in the sacraments; letting ourselves be gathered every Sunday as his family – is the way we remain connected to the Holy Vine of God’s love and remain spiritually resilient. Through our union with Christ, what is true of him becomes true of us.
Human beings, especially ones in the green and growing stage, need the good soil of community. They need to be rooted in family traditions like family meals and family worship. Kids, especially teenagers, may complain like the dickens when they’re forced to work their schedules around family activities…but they also complain about the medicine that makes them well again. If we love them we make them take it.
The Gospel Word from Jesus is that, no matter how old we are, no matter how busy our lives become, we are still branches. Branches…not extension cords. We need to stay rooted in him and in his Body the Church. Without Jesus and the Tradition of our Catholic Faith we wither and die. “I am the Vine and you are branches. Remain in me and your life will be fruitful. Cut yourself off from Me and your life will shrivel and die.”
Our hearts do not have extension cords. Our souls are not power packs. We are meant live close to Jesus and daily celebrate the common life we share in Baptism. We cannot resist the destructive voices around us unless we listen to the Voice within us.
Today we pray for a more living faith. A faith lived in family life. A faith shared with our neighbors. A faith supporting young lives. A faith that shares a common source: God’s Word and his Sacraments.