Its every football fan’s dream to play for the team that you support, especially when you are young. They dream of getting the phone call from the manager asking them if they are free to play on Saturday and you dream of running down the tunnel.
It’s a funny old game football, it can get a hold of you it can become your passion, in your waking hours and even when you are sleeping. The funny thing about it is that everyone is an expert, offering advice to managers, to players of how the game should be played.
What is it that makes a successful football team, certainly a good manager, good players, good tactics. But what makes for a good football team is when they play well together, everything clicks, there is a flow, there is unity and harmony.
That same idea appears in the Gospel reading at Mass. We work best it seems to say when we are united, us to Jesus, like a vine that has branches. When we click together with him, when we flow along, when we are in unity and harmony that is us at our best. The leaf, the stalk, the fruit, the vine- dresser all working in harmony, that is when we are at our best; the opposite is true we wither away if we are nit united with the vine that gives life.
It’s a convincing idea, it’s an easy thing to go along with, and everything works better if we work together, if we work alongside each other, if we do our part, if we are in harmony with one another. Great things can be achieved and when that unity and harmony are not there everything seems to unravel. There is no common mind or common purpose; there is no striving together for an end.
It is the very nature of things that we find it hard to create that unity and harmony. How many families find it difficult to create unity amongst their members? How many businesses flounder because there is no harmony and unity among workers and bosses? How many countries struggle to get on with one another and end up at war? How many jealousies and rivalries between neighbours destroy the peace of a street or a neighbourhood?
When we lose that unity it is hard to get it back, hard to re-claim it. Friendships end on a sour note and friends who were once inseparable refuse to talk. Marriages break up, love turns to something much different. Sporting teams fall out and fold – they can’t seem to retrieve that thing that they once had.
To be a person of unity is important in life. To be someone who unites, brings things and people together, is part of what we are supposed to be about. To be a reconciler, to be a healer, to be a person who heals divisions , to be someone who forgives is all part of that mission to unite, to keep things together, to work for harmony.
You see that in families, people who are peacemakers. You seen it in work places, people not getting involved in gossip of back biting. You see it in statesmen and stateswomen, who rise above petty disputes to say something that mends and heals and brings people together. There are people who are unifying forces in our world, they build bridges, they knock down walls, they stretch out the hand of forgiveness, they are not scared to say sorry, not scared to admit when they are wrong.
The image that we hear in the Gospel is all about unity. The vine, the branches, the vine dresser-everything together, in harmony and united. There is locked away in that story a whole life-time of work.
Here’s a work that is simple and yet hard at the same time, to be a person who unites and doesn’t divide. To be a person who builds up and doesn’t knock down, to be a person who reconciles and loves. Surely, this has got to be an important part of what we are about.