When each of us is Baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, it is a ceremony to signify that entering into the spiritual universe is a free act of the will to accept Jesus as Lord. Accepting Jesus as Lord means that first, God loved us and selected us from before the world began. Read one of my favorite passages from John 15 (I say that about all the passages) and try to sense the power contained in the words. Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to become what you read in the holy text. John 20:30-31 tells us why we even have Holy Scripture. Scriptures should not be your terminal center but a means whereby you are present to the Word and grow in grace and wisdom.
The Vine and the Branches.1* “I am the true vine,* and my Father is the vine grower.a2He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit.3You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.b4Remain 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.5I 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.6*c Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d8By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.e9As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.f10If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.g11“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.h12This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.i13* No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14You are my friends if you do what I command you.15I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends,* because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.k16It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.l17This I command you: love one another.m
The World’s Hatred.*18“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.n19If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.o20Remember the word I spoke to you,* ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.p21And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,* because they do not know the one who sent me.q22If I had not come and spoken* to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin.r23Whoever hates me also hates my Father.s24If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.t25But in order that the word written in their law* might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’u26“When the Advocate comes whom I will send* you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.v27And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.w
* [15:1–17] Like Jn 10:1–5, this passage resembles a parable. Israel is spoken of as a vineyard at Is 5:1–7; Mt 21:33–46 and as a vine at Ps 80:9–17; Jer 2:21; Ez 15:2; 17:5–10; 19:10; Hos 10:1. The identification of the vine as the Son of Man in Ps 80:15 and Wisdom’s description of herself as a vine in Sir 24:17 are further background for portrayal of Jesus by this figure. There may be secondary eucharistic symbolism here; cf. Mk 14:25, “the fruit of the vine.”
* [15:2] Takes away,prunes: in Greek there is a play on two related verbs.
* [15:6] Branches were cut off and dried on the wall of the vineyard for later use as fuel.
* [15:13] For one’s friends: or: “those whom one loves.” In Jn 15:9–13a, the words for love are related to the Greek agapaō. In Jn 15:13b–15, the words for love are related to the Greek phileō. For John, the two roots seem synonymous and mean “to love”; cf. also Jn 21:15–17. The word philos is used here.
* [15:15] Slaves,friends: in the Old Testament, Moses (Dt 34:5), Joshua (Jos 24:29), and David (Ps 89:21) were called “servants” or “slaves of Yahweh”; only Abraham (Is 41:8; 2 Chr 20:7; cf. Jas 2:23) was called a “friend of God.”
* [15:22, 24] Jesus’ words (spoken) and deeds (works) are the great motives of credibility. They have seen and hated: probably means that they have seen his works and still have hated; but the Greek can be read: “have seen both me and my Father and still have hated both me and my Father.” Works,that no one else ever did: so Yahweh in Dt 4:32–33.
* [15:25] In their law: law is here used as a larger concept than the Pentateuch, for the reference is to Ps 35:19 or Ps 69:5. See notes on Jn 10:34; 12:34. Their law reflects the argument of the church with the synagogue.
* [15:26] Whom I will send: in Jn 14:16, 26, the Paraclete is to be sent by the Father, at the request of Jesus. Here the Spirit comes from both Jesus and the Father in mission; there is no reference here to the eternal procession of the Spirit.
WE HAVE A CROSS TATTOOED ON OUR SOUL
Did you know you have a tattoo on your soul as a result of your baptism? Be it as an infant or adult, you are marked for life and cannot unmark yourself. This is why the Catholic Church recognized that there is only One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. Read Ephesians and try to relate the Oneness of God to all those Baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4* one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d5one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.f
This sign is the cross, a simple + that no one can see but God and you. It signifies our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, it is a badge of shame to be crucified on the cross but with the Christ Principle, we are transformed into our true nature, the one in the Garden of Eden before the fall, the one that has perfect resonance of all creation rather than dissonance. Each day, we are asked to carry that cross of our, as did Christ once did for all of us. Each day, I must die to self to be raised up to new life, one that sanctifies the day with the purpose of life– Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36. Each day, I must seek mercy for myself by giving mercy to others. Each day, I must call upon the Lord to be saved. Each day I must seek God. Each day, I must remember, as St. Benedict prescribes in Chapter 4 of the Rule, prefer nothing to the love of Christ. The point here is that this does not happen automatically with an act of my individual will. The Church cannot save me, although I am saved through the Church. I am only save through, with and in Christ.
The tattoo on my soul must be sustained each day or the ravages of living in a secular world will overtake it, just like rust does to a piece of iron. Doing nothing as a follower of Jesus is doing something that may lead to my faith atrophying. God put the tattoo on my soul to remind me that I am a pilgrim in a foreign land until I reach Heaven. Christ is with me, but won’t do it for me.
LAY CISTERCIAN PRACTICES AND CHARISMS
Lay Cistercians are those laity who do not live in a monastery but live Cistercian (Trappist) practices and charisms where they are and how they are in the world. Here are some of the Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) thoughts I had about my tattoo.
THE PRACTICE OF CONTEMPLATIVE TRANSFORMATION
Here are some of the ways that I try to practice transformation because I look at the cross tattooed on my soul.
Praise to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology.