Sunday 2nd May 2021
WITHOUT ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING
Psalm 22:26b-27, 28 and 30, 31-32
1 John 3:1b-24
Dear Christians, The Gospel of today teaches us that without Jesus we can do nothing. Jesus is the vine and we are His branches. When we remain united with him we can bear fruit, but when we are not united with him we cannot bear fruit. As St. Thomas Aquinas would say, “Grace builds on nature”. We as human beings ought to do our best and God will do the rest. Without God, we can’t do anything.
St. Augustine of Hippo said, “Work as if everything depends on you and pray to know that it all depends on God”. Work and prayer are the two wings we can use to fly to success. We ask for God’s grace but we also do our part.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exultate, Pope Francis talks of two enemies to holiness: contemporary Gnosticism and contemporary Pelagianism. These two errors emphasize human effort forgetting grace. Neo-Gnosticism is of the idea that man can save himself by his knowledge alone – hence what is important is the effort of the intellect.
Similarly, Neopelagianism is of the idea that man can save himself by his work alone – hence what is important is the effort of the will. Man thinks he is enough on his own and he can excel on his own without Divine help. The gospel of today is a reminder that without God we can do absolutely nothing. Self-help on its own is not enough – we need the Grace of God.
A story is told of two donkeys that were walking around Jerusalem one day. One of the donkeys said, “Wow, yesterday I was carrying Jesus on my back, people were hailing me, screaming and shouting, Hosanna, Hosanna. People even kept their clothes on the ground for me to walk on, and those who did not have any clothing had to put down palm leaves for me to walk on. But today I walked through the same road, nobody recognizes me, and no one even said anything to me”. The second donkey smiled and said, “Hmmm my friend ... Don’t you know that without Jesus you are nothing but a donkey”. In the gospel of today, Jesus says, “Without me, you can do nothing”.
At the wedding at Cana, “Jesus told the servants ‘Fill the jars with water. They filled them to the brim” Jn. 2:7. For crying out loud he is the Son of God he could have simply lifted a hand and the jars would be filled with water but Jesus lets them do what they can do and he did what they cannot do. Do what you can and pray for what you can’t.
Similarly at the resurrection of Lazarus “Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone’” Jn. 11:38-39. Do your part and I will do my part. Do what you can I will do what you can’t. After performing the miracle, “The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, ad his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go’”. That which you can do, please do. That which you cannot do, surrender it to me.
When Jesus appeared to the Apostles at the Shore of Tiberias, “When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with some fish on it and bread. And Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have caught ... Jesus said to them ‘Come have breakfast’” Jn. 21:9-12. He could have miraculously brought fish out of the water but he didn’t. What you can do, do. What you can’t do I will do for you.
Dear Christians we need grace – human effort is important but on its own, it is not enough hence the need for Divine Grace. Jesus is the vine and we are his branches, without him we can do nothing. Of course, we ought to work as if everything depended on us, but we also should pray to know that it depends on God.