Could you live without Jesus?
A reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B
by Julian Paparella
"Apart from me you can do nothing!"
Imagine these words coming from your spouse, your mom or dad, your boss, your friend, or one of your kids! What?!? How presumptuous! Imagine a head of state proclaiming these words in an address to the nation! What a dictator!
Yet these are precisely the words of Jesus to his disciples and to each one of us. So how can we understand such a gutsy claim?
We first need to see that Jesus is not simply someone that we need.
In reality, Jesus is someone without whom we would not be anybody. Indeed, without Jesus, nothing would exist!
Why is this? Because at the very dawn of creation, the Father created EVERYTHING through the SON.
We can easily miss that the creation of the universe was not only the work of God the Father. The whole Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is at work to this very day in bringing about everything that exists.
It is Scripture that tells us that everything came into being through the Son. Nothing came into being without Him.
Saint John describes the Son this way: "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being" (John 1:3). Saint Paul tells us: "In him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible... all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:16-17).
Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is not only the firstborn of all creation
, He is the foundation
by which everything exists! He is the "glue"
holding all of creation together.
This is even more true of human beings! We are created in the image of God, and the perfect image of God is Jesus Christ. It is as if the Father looked at His Son as His model for sculpting us!
Then the Son came to earth to fulfill His image in us and introduce us into the same kind of relationship that He has with the Father for all eternity. The Son was born as a human child to give us new birth as sons and daughters of the Father. Here and now, He pours the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we can share in the relationship of love that He has shared with the Father for all eternity, uniting all of us in the Family of God.
In this way, by telling us we need Him, Jesus is not bursting onto the scene to impose Himself on us out of arrogance. He doesn't say "You need me" because He wants to make Himself seem important. He tells us we need Him because this is the beautiful truth of the cosmos.
It has been this way since the dawn of creation, and it will never cease to be this way. It is part of the very fabric of the universe: we need Jesus to become what we are meant to be.
And so the question is not so much whether we can do without Jesus but rather: What can we let Jesus do in us?
Jesus wants us to bear abundant fruit. He wants to bear His fruits in us. And so He wants to prune away all that chokes out fruitfulness.
What fruits does Jesus bear in your life?
What fruits does God cultivate in your family, in your workplace, in your volunteering, in your community? What are God's fruits in your parish, in your groups of friends? Each of us can think about what God has already borne in us and what He wants to grow next, identifying the unique gifts of God in us.
Scripture gives us clear indications for recognizing the fruits of God's labour. Saint Paul tells us that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus looks us straight in the eye and tells us frankly: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Ultimately, the Kingdom of God is manifested in love, justice, peace, joy, goodness, and fraternity (Romans 14:17).
How can we let ourselves and our surroundings be fertile ground for the abundant fruits that God wants to bring about in our midst
? How can we plant seeds with God to bring about the harvest that He wants for the world? What are the seeds that He gives you to sow in your life?
What can you do to till the ground today and empower others to do the same? Pass God's seeds to those around you; there is more than enough to go around. The harvest is the fruit of all our little efforts working together in Jesus.
If we sow the seeds He gives us, little by little He will provide the growth. He puts the seeds in our hands, and we can leave the harvest in His.
The readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B, are
1 John 3:18-24
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is married to Marion.