In today’s first Mass reading from Act, Paul and Barnabus arrive back in Jerusalem and report to the Apostles and the presbyters “what God had done with them.” Not what they had done, but what God had done through them.
That first reading from Acts (and I’ve written before about how much I love hearing from Acts every year during the Easter season) is coupled with the passage in John’s Gospel where Jesus tells his disciples that he is the true vine and we are the branches. And, he warns them, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me…Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
For me, this is at one and the same time humbling and empowering, and it is both of those for the same reason. What we do we do, not through our own power, but through the Spirit of God that flows through us. Without Jesus, we can do nothing; the branch without the vine will never bear fruit. So it is humbling. But at the same time, it is empowering because it reminds us that with Jesus, there is no limit. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.”
Both readings also remind us that what we do we do for the glory of God, not for ourselves. In the words of Psalm 115, “Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory.” We need to be mindful of that we are about God’s work and God’s glory, not our own. Once in a while, even the most well-intentioned among us loses sight of that. We are capable of of forgetting it is not about us, but about God.
Jesus also tells his disciples in this reading that the vine grower – the Father – prunes the branches that bear fruit so that they bear more fruit. We might profitably reflect on the question: Where do I need some pruning? What in me needs to be pruned so that I can bear more fruit for God?