In his book, The Road to Character, the American political and cultural commentator, David Brooks, writes of a dramatic shift that has taken place in our society from one that was, in many respects, characterized by the virtue of humilityto what he refers to as the present-day selfieor ‘Big Me”generation and its narcissistic preoccupations. In this thoroughly engaging work, he speaks of what he refers to as resumévirtues and eulogyvirtues. “Resumé” virtues are all those gifts and talents that we have acquired over the years that help us to be successful in the things that we do in our occupation - entrepreneurial skills, gifts and talents that help us to not only compete but excel in our particular occupations in life. These are the things that we meticulously put down on a resumé if we are looking for a job.
“Eulogy” virtues, on the other hand, are the things that will be said about us after we die. They are virtues that have shaped us, hopefully, to be women or men of character. Eulogy virtues exists at the core of our being - kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed in the course of our lives. In the end, it is, of course, these ‘eulogy’ virtues that ultimately will determine what has, down through the ages, been the hallmark of a man or woman of character.
My friends, it is precisely the nurturing of eulogy virtues that God’s word speaks to this day. During the Easter Season, readings from the letters of St. John to the early communities of Christians invariably focus on the foundational Christian virtue of love. Over and over again, like a great litany of affirmation, we hear St. John telling his listeners to ‘love one another.’ Tradition has it that as an old man his audience would anticipate his familiar theme as they waited once again to hear the words of one who had known the Lord as the beloved disciple.
The ultimate test of our character as Christians is beautifully set before us in today’s Gospel. The depth and authenticity of that character, quite simply, will be determined by how well and often we have let ourselves be rooted deeply in Jesus. Using the familiar imagery of the ‘vine and branches,’ Jesus calls us to ‘remain in him as I remain in you.’
At the heart of our Catholic faith is nothing less than divine communion with the Lord of creation. As Catholics we have nearly two millennia of rich and elaborate doctrinal belief. Our theological heritage spans the centuries and fills volumes of learned tomes. However, as St Thomas Aquinas, said, all of it is straw in comparison to the love that you and I are called to have with Christ.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
My brothers and sisters, when the inevitable sun sets on our earthly journeys and the time will come when we will be remembered, let us hope and pray, that the greatest tribute that might be given to us will be captured in the simple words, “He or she loved the Lord and His people!”