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Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)

My dear encountered couples:

Destiny! Do you know what destiny is? The dictionary says it is “the inevitable or necessary lot to which a particular person or thing is destined.” Destiny is like “fate.” It is a course of events that is beyond our control to stop or change. Have you ever felt that things happen in your lives that are beyond your power or control? I suspect we all have.

We find ourselves in certain situations which become very persuasive in moving us to make this or that decision.

For instance: The factory closes down and you lose your job. As “luck” would have it no other job is available where you live. So, you are forced to move to another city to find work there. You must make a decision as to which city that will be. And the opportunities available in the various cities will play a large part in your decision. After you find a job and get settled you meet someone very attractive. You fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after – more or less. “How did you two meet?” someone might someday ask. Your answer? “I guess it was destiny. It must have been in the cards. Fate brought us together.”

Yes, it certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? Something, or was it Someone, brought the two of you together. It sort of looks like a setup. You were forced to find another job, you had to move, you had to make decisions. You were not entirely free to do what you might have wanted, yet it was you who made the final decisions where to move and whom to marry. Circumstances dictated part of your life, your using your free will decided the rest.

We are people who believe that God knows from all eternity about every facet of our lives. We also believe that nothing in our lives is out of his control. Is it God who made that company go out of business so you would have to move and meet the person he wanted you to marry? Or was it that God knew that company was going to fail and he arranged your working there so you would lose your job and have to move? In other words, how much and to what extent was God in on your life happenings and how much did you decide for yourself? That’s a good question – one that none of us will ever in this world be able to figure out for sure.

The family in which you were born, whether you started out in this world rich or poor, smart or not so smart, handsome, pretty, or whatever, were not your decisions. God in one way or another made them for you. And he didn’t step out of the picture after you got your start in this world.

Don’t you find yourself from time to time in situations you really aren’t responsible for? We all do. Does God make those situations happen? Or does he just see to it that we are around when they do happen?

Does God make the rainbow in the sky for us to see? Or does he just arrange that we are at that particular spot so we will see the rainbow when it appears? Did God plan the earthquake for your visit to San Francisco? Or did he arrange it so you would be in San Francisco when it happened? Who knows? Who cares!

The particulars might not be important to figure out. But the fact of God’s involvement in our lives is important. Is he or isn’t he responsible for our finding ourselves in certain situations from time to time? Are we set up, so to speak, for our own good? I think that Jesus seems to say so. Though it might not be all that evident and clear by what he says, let’s take a listen at what Jesus says today to his disciples: “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-grower. He prunes away every barren branch, but the fruitful ones he trims clean to increase their yield.. .1 am the vine, you are the branches.”

Now if we are the branches joined to the vine, Jesus Christ, and if God our Father is the vine-grower trimming clean and pruning branches - which are us - then it looks like God is doing things that affect us greatly. God is doing things that hopefully will make us into better people. And his actions would certainly accomplish that except for one thing. A branch on a vine has no say – as to the results of the trimming and pruning. But we do! We have free will to decide what those results will eventually accomplish. God has something definite in mind when he acts in our lives, but we might decide on something else quite different.

There is somewhat of a destiny, of a fate, already planned out for you by God. But you are in control of the final outcome of your life. God arranges just so much, the rest he leaves to you. We are all to make the best of every situation. The person who just sits and moans and groans and complains gets nowhere, at least nowhere good. The person who uses every circumstance as a new opportunity to accomplish something good gets everywhere, especially to heaven. Saints are those who do what they can to make the best of every situation they find themselves in. Sinners are those who make the worst out of them.

Is life a game? Have we each been dealt cards that tell us where we start and what situations we must imagine ourselves in? If it is a game it is certainly a very serious one, a deadly serious one. The situations we find ourselves in as a result of God’s actions, the situations we put ourselves in as a result of our own actions are not imaginary; they are real. And we are not to merely play-act and imagine what we might do in those situations; we are to make intelligent, common—sense decisions, and then act upon them; we are to do something. God hopes that what we decide to do is something that will bring about positive good for us and for others. God gives you the situation. You are to make the best of it.

But don’t fret. God never leaves you helpless. You always have the wisdom and strength of his Spirit to lead you to making a good decision and carrying out a courageous action. Some things in your life are beyond your control - that’s destiny. But you have the power of God to make them work for your good — that’s Christianity.

I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-grower. He prunes away every barren branch, but the fruitful ones he trims clean to increase their yield … I am the vine, you are the branches.” God loves you. His arrangements for you are always the best!

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