Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
How would we react if someone were to tell us: “Without me you can’t do anything”?
With an impulse of pride, we would probably lift up our head and gaze in defiance, ready to assert our independence and our capacities. Or, mindful of some failure we have just experienced, we would feel a wave of discouragement coming over us, with that little voice repeating internally: “I will never make it.”
We can say that these two different reactions are in reality related, like the two sides of the same coin called pride that makes us centered on ourselves, on our big ego.
If the words, “Without me you can’t do anything” resound in our heart with an offensive, aggressive, ridiculing tone that belittles our dignity, we can rest assured that it is not the voice of the Holy Spirit. The same goes for the voice of pride and the voice of discouragement that arise as a response within us: they do not come from the Lord. They only take away our peace.
They do not tell the truth about who God is and who we are.
God is our Creator, but He is also and above all our Father. We are his creatures, but we are also and above all his children.
A creature would not be there without the Creator calling it into existence, and a son or daughter cannot beget him/herself, they can only receive life from the Father.
So we are dependent on him, but in a way so very different from what is suggested by that voice that wounds with its sting.
In chapter 15 of John’s Gospel, Jesus gives a very important talk. He speaks of his great love for us, the same love that the Father has for him and that he pours out on us his children. Not only that, but He also insists that we belong to him so deeply that we are part of him: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Flowing through him and in us is the same life, the same sap: the Holy Spirit.
And just to reaffirm our great dignity he declares that we are not servants but friends, partakers of the Father’s secrets.
These are so far from the words that diminish our dignity and offend us!
The Father created us that we might bear fruit, fruit that remains forever (cf. Jn. 15:16).
If we dwell on these words, wonder might indeed blossom in us at the promise of such greatness, so much so that we might perhaps say to the Lord: “How is this possible? I struggle every day with my limitations and failures, with the struggle to love and forgive…”
A story is told of a little boy that while playing in the backyard was trying to move a big pot, much bigger and heavier than him. He set to it though, under the attentive gaze of his dad.
Labored breathing, effort, sweat…nothing, not an inch. He was just about to give up when his dad asked him, “Did you put all the strength you had into it?” Of course!” the child replied. “But you didn’t ask for my help”, said his father.
All the strength we can possess is both our own and our Father’s.
We are one with him, in the Vine that is Christ, in the Holy Spirit who is an abundant gift of strength and love.
“I made you in my image, I made you for greatness, but it is first of all the greatness of communion with me.” The greatest and most beautiful fruit we can bear in our life is love, but it comes only from a personal encounter with God.
It is in this context that Jesus, in a voice that encourages and gives joy, says, “Without me you can do nothing.”
With the gift of his Spirit, the Lord invites us to receive his grace and to respond with everything we are, with every fiber of our being, with our gifts, skills, desires, and even our struggles and limitations. The fire of the Spirit will strengthen and purify the heart.
“Put yourself out there completely.” As if to tell us that he cannot do anything without us either, that is, he cannot take us to the heights of eternal life without our yes, without our involvement.
Come, Holy Spirit, and sustain us in this ascent to the fullness of life and love.
Come, without your power nothing is in man, nothing is without fault.
Suggested resolutions for your prayer:
- With the help of God’s grace, this month I will practice invoking the Holy Spirit, especially when I sense my weakness and struggle in loving God and others.
- I will go back to some verses of John 15 and ponder and repeat them, remembering the great love the Father has for me and the great dignity I am called to as his child.
This month’s meditation is by Sr. Celestina, AVI.