B Cycle – 5th Sunday of Easter 18

Jn. 15:1-8

There is a statistical formula which is referred to as the 80 / 20 rule.  Simply put it says that 80% of sales income comes from 20 % of your customer base. It applies to your cost of doing business with 80 % of your cost in 20 % of your resources.  We can apply this rule to all aspects of the church also for 80 % of the income comes from 20% of our parishioners. If you look closely you will find that 80 % of all our ministries are done by 20 % of the people involved in ministry.  This rule is used by all successful businesses to help them focus on prime areas of income, cost, waste, resources by paying attention to the areas where improvements will generate large returns.

But we are a church and that makes me wonder if a relationship with Christ and growth in discipleship is impacted by “worldly rules.”  After all Jesus tells us he will go after one lost sheep and leave the 99 behind to fend for themselves.  That would be an irresponsible approach according to the 80 / 20 rule.

I remember a conversation I had with the pastor of one of those mega churches.  He told me that every person who joins his church must tithe 10%. In fact, he was bragging that former Catholics’ who never tithed in their lives never balked at the demand to tithe.  I know that if we look closely we will find wealthier members tithe will be the 20% that makes up 80% of the churches income. But when it comes to ministry, they are told they must sign up for some ministry to serve the community or community outreach.  This means they have 100 % participation in ministry which would make that statistical rule suspect.  However, I would bet that you will find that some members are very involved in more than one ministry so that perhaps 20 % of the membership are doing 80% of the ministry.

Yet he can easily say everyone is involved in some ministry.  We cannot say that as a church and in many of our parishes a small number of parishioners are doing the bulk of ministry.  In fact, just this month I have had several discussions that are disturbing to me and should be disturbing to everyone who calls themselves Catholic.  The first discussion involved new members of the church who were trying to get involved.  They were eager to serve the church and to use their gifts to serve the community or to help the community bear fruit.  One couple signed up for several ministries and were never contacted although they were told someone would contact them within two weeks.  The other couple contacted the person in charge of a ministry only to be told they were not needed because they had enough help.

By this my father is glorified, that you bear fruit.  If we concentrate on our own spiritual life is that bearing fruit. If you are growing spiritually yes you are bearing fruit but is that the kind of fruit Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel.  Saul was bearing fruit for those who refused to accept Jesus as the promised Messiah by arresting the so-called Christians and bringing them to trial.  There is a lesson in his failure to recognize Jesus as God’s promised savior.  With all his knowledge of the scriptures he needed to have an encounter with Christ to understand and apply the scriptures to daily living.

We have a simple scripture to understand today if we only can understand seven words spoken to us by Jesus – “apart from me you can do nothing.”

We, in the church, must be drawing all our wisdom, our strength, our understanding of what we are called to become from Jesus.  There is no 80 / 20 rule in the kingdom of God. It is all in, all we have, 100% doing the will of Jesus and bearing fruit that feeds others.  If we could understand we are called to serve we would not have to tell people, they need to tithe, or they need to do ministry. We would not have a small minority of people supporting the financial needs of the church and we would understand how much more we could do if every person in the parish used their gifts to give glory to God.

Why does someone not call a new member of the parish who wants to volunteer their time and talent to the church?  Who are we to deny someone who has a desire to serve the ability to serve because we believe we have enough people already?  Who are we to reject the person who comes among us with a desire to serve God because we are entrenched in our ministry.  Paul was rejected and yet God had gifted him with the ability to provide tremendous insights for us to understand the Christian life.

What do we miss if we do not use our gift to serve the body of Christ? We miss out on the plan God has for our lives.  “We are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus for the good deeds he has prepared in advance for us” Eph,2:10).

The scriptures are not hard to understand.  We can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ and yet most of us do everything apart from Jesus Christ.  That is why we reject those who want to serve and most of us do not feel we need to serve.  Think about is if we are living our spiritual life according to our own plan we are not doing God’s will and that is sin.  If we are not seeking to use our gift to build the kingdom of God, then we are not doing the “deeds he has prepared in advance for us” and that is disobedience and sin.

Today the scriptures are a call to serve. They are a call to offer your service to the community you worship with every Sunday.  If you are one of those involved they call you to help others get involved and find a way to use their gifts not to reject them as the community did reject what Paul had to offer.

Remember – Apart from Jesus you can do nothing and if you try you are only serving yourself.


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