Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

April 28: Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 17, 2024

No compartments

Acts 9:26-31; Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8

Several years ago, a CIA agent was discovered to be passing top secret information to the Russians. His actions led to a most serious breach of security that resulted in the deaths of several American agents who were working undercover in Russia.

The rogue agent pled guilty and at his sentencing he was asked how he could live with himself knowing that his betrayal led to the death of so many colleagues. He said that he lived his life in compartments. His spying for Russia was one compartment of his life that he ignored except when necessary. He simply chose not think much about his actions or their consequences.

This traitor’s way of dealing with his acts of betrayal is not that unusual. Many people resort to compartmentalizing their lives. This enables them to live with themselves.

Some people may be devoted to their families and their friends, but are ruthless in their business dealings. Others may be cooperative and helpful at work, but lazy and indifferent at home. Some of the most generous benefactors to charitable causes are people who have come by their wealth dishonestly.

Sometimes the only way people can live with the inconsistencies of their lives is to do what that spy did. They segment their lives into compartments and pay little attention the unpleasant.

The apostle John urges us to do the opposite — to hold together what can become separated in our thinking about our lives: “Little children, let us love ... in deed and truth.” It is easier to separate our beliefs from our behavior than it is to live the type of Christian life in which our faith sets the pattern for the way we live. It is easier to separate belief and obedience than to let our beliefs shape our values and direct our actions. It is easier to separate our relationship with God from our relations with each other than to recognize that the quality of our human relationships determines the quality of our life with God. 

Living an integrated life takes honesty with oneself. Arranging our lives in neat, separate compartments makes living with the contradictions of life bearable. At Mass, we are in our faith compartment. After Mass, we close that compartment for another week.

Is this how we manage our lives? Do the values of the Gospel determine how we live outside our faith compartment? Authentic Christians live without compartments. The Gospel of Jesus Christ infuses every aspect of their lives.

The good news is that there is a way to live without compartments. Jesus shares his own life with us just as a vine that shares its life with its branches. We have received a share in Christ’s life at our baptism. That life is nourished at the Lord’s table.

Having given us this new life, Jesus says to us: “Remain in me as I remain in you.” How? Jesus replies: “Whoever remains in me and I in [them] will bear much fruit.” For Christians there is only one compartment: living the life of a disciple in deed and in truth by remaining on the vine that is Christ. Those who remain on the vine that is Christ will produce the fruit of justice, peace and love.

The Gospel offers us the way to live a Christian life with integrity and authenticity. It is a life in which deeds match words. Fortunately, we do not have to depend on our own potential to live a genuinely Christian life. Christ makes this possible as his own life pulsates in the lives of those who remain on the vine. For this we give thanks.


  • scripture