Fifth Sunday of Easter (B)
May 6, 2012

The world of business in this globalized world knows this for a fact – that one cannot go it alone, and that one stands to gain more if one is connected, if one belongs to a chain, and if one draws its inspiration from a successful conglomerate that spans many cities and nations all over the world.

In my lifetime, with the proliferation of huge malls and shopping centers, that gave a totally new twist to the idea of one-stop shopping cum entertainment, I have witnessed the demise of so many little businesses, Mom-and-Pop stores, small eateries and boutiques that used to exist independently of one another, that somehow survived and even thrived with a minimum of staff and manpower. I remember the hole-in-the-wall small restaurants in Quiapo, Manila and elsewhere, which were stand-alone enterprises that each offered their own specialties, without the support of any big-sounding names of chains that can afford expensive ads on TV and radio and print media.

Nowadays, a great many of them are gone … forever. The few that survived probably did so because they re-engineered themselves, and transformed themselves in accordance with the new rules of the game brought about by globalization!

They needed to belong … they needed to attach themselves to a chain or start by becoming one such chain, and streamline operations by centralizing management, supply, and adapting a fast-food style, partially automated production line, all designed to give people what they want in as little time as possible, with as few hands involved as possible, in sanitary conditions that follow strict international standards.

Those who did not join the bandwagon and did not re-engineer themselves, did not last very long.

It is in this light that I would like to speak about today’s gospel.  To me at least, this seems to get closest to my understanding of what being branches of the one vine is all about.

It means two things for me: attachment and attunement. One has to be attached to the source, the spirit, the life-giving principle of who and what we all are meant to be.

In my readings, I have learned that one has to define oneself if one is to thrive in the business world. One has to define his core values and core vision and core mission. We all cannot be experts in everything. We all cannot be specialized in everything. And management-wise, we all cannot be managers and CEOs. But neither can we be all Lone Rangers. Somebody has to act as head, as source, as inspirer and leader. And such leaders ought to have followers ready and willing to do as bidden by the recognized leader.

I see the words of the Lord today in this light. I see and hear Him defining Himself for who he is, as Risen Lord and SAVIOR. “I am the vine, you are the branches.” But in so doing, He also defines who we are in relation to Him … as branches, attached and attuned to Him. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

I am a little sad about this particular once famous restaurant  that used to be popular among expats and balikbayans. About ten or fifteen years ago, when it was still popular, I predicted that time would come when people would no longer patronize it. I was proven right. Now, it is obviously trying to survive, holding with might and main to an outdated business model, trying hard to present itself as a unique fine-dining experience, but which has been supplanted by a lot of new players that offered more value for money, and still offer good food along with a spirit of fun and camaraderie.

It obviously failed to re-engineer itself. It was obviously not attuned to the times, even as it remained attached to its old image and former glory of times past. Not even its immaculate white table covers and stiffly starched table napkins, and its appropriately attired waiters and waitresses could get back its lost clientele, taken over by the new fad in town – resto grills and themed eating places that were regular features everywhere, around the country and all over the world in some cases.

The good news for us today, among others, seems very clear. And it all revolves around the issue of staying connected if one is to stay alive. It has to do with attachment, if one is to expect to remain thriving, relevant to the times and significant to the seasons that keep on changing. It has to do, too, with attunement which means being in line, not off-line, when it comes to sporting the same spirit, the same inspiration, and the same dynamics that consequently spell well-being and continuing existence.

I have seen a number of sad stories in my life, about companies splitting from their mother companies for many reasons. I have seen how such spin-offs ended in grief, after some time. When the reasons for such spin-offs are solely for selfish reasons, just to spin away and be independent from the controls of the mother company, for reasons of pride and selfishness, for many of them, the endings are predictably sad and disastrous.

Without attunement and attachment, many of them eventually wither and die. This is the repeated stories of little churches that broke away from Holy Mother Church. They ended up splitting again and again into little splinter groups. They begin with a band and end up with a whimper.

The lessons are clear for each one of us. We need to remain attached and attuned to Him alone who clearly defined Himself legitimately as the vine. We need to act more like branches and not as stand-alone entities apart from and disengaged from the vine.

Let us hear it direct from Him: “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.”