Lydia Cristini


Fifth Sunday in Easter – May 3, 2015
Acts 9.26-31 | Psalm 22 | 1 John 3.18-24 | John 15.1-8
April 20, 2015

"Without me you can do nothing." The image of the vine and the branches in this Gospel is a familiar one. In John's usual style, it is both simple and profound.

Jesus says we are completely dependent on him, and every good thing we do is because of him. This theme is echoed again and again in our faith; the Mass goes so far as telling us that the "desire to thank you is itself your gift." Even thanking God is a gift from God!

In our culture, this is not a popular idea. Many of us pride ourselves on pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, on doing it all on our own, on achieving our accomplishments by our own hard work and discipline.

The branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine. – John 15.4

'The branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine.'

John 15.4

It is good to feel proud of these achievements, and it is true, without hard work and discipline, we would not be able to do the things we do.

But Brené Brown, a writer and research professor, warns about "the myth of self-sufficiency," which "equate[s] success with not needing anyone."

Our tendency to individualism, our relative wealth in North America, and our increasing ability to know and do things with technology can feed the illusion that we do not need anyone else, that we have control over our lives.

That this is a hollow fiction often becomes clear when our lives are touched by tragedy. In the span of a few seconds, we hear a loved one has cancer, has a degenerative illness, has had a heart attack or has been caught up in a natural disaster.

Or maybe in those few seconds, something happens directly to us: an illness, a miscarriage, a car accident. In any case, nothing is the same again. It becomes clear: we do not have control; we need other people. We need God.

With or without tragedy, whoever we are, and from wherever we have come, the truth stands: we are utterly and completely dependent on God.

Jesus says, "Remain in me, as I remain in you." Prayer is where we go to remain with him.

In her book, Essence of Prayer, Carmelite nun Ruth Burrows leads readers through an unflinching look at what it means to have faith, to doubt, to trust, to have joy, to pray.

Burrows states the deceptively simple and almost unbelievable truth: with God, it is not our role to give, but to receive. Prayer is not us working and pushing and striving to attain God; instead, it is "nothing other than being present to God so that God can give to us."

Prayer, like every other good thing in life, is primarily the action of God. Through prayer, we allow God to give his own self to us, and we remember that God is the source of our accomplishments and our worth.

Through prayer, we remain connected to the Vine. When we do that, there is no telling what fruit God will be able to bear in our lives and in our world.