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Dear Father,

I read in the Gospel of John the following sentence: “For without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). What does it mean?

Thank you,


Dear Ada,

1. The Lord’s statement is found in John 15:5. Here the Lord says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”.

2. Without the strength that comes from the Lord, we can do nothing either in the order of nature nor in the order of grace.

In the order of nature: our existence comes from Him. It is He who keeps us in existence, and it is He who gives us everything we have at our disposal.

We could not pass from power to action if He did not give us strength.

3. Similarly, in the order of grace we can do nothing that merits eternal life unless we are grafted into Him through grace.

Only if we are grafted into Him through faith and charity, our works are proportional to life in Paradise.

4. St Thomas explained it better:

«Without me you can do nothing». With these words he instructs the hearts of the humble and silences the mouths of the proud, especially of the Pelagians, who say that they can do by themselves, without the help of God, the good works of the virtues and of the law. And although they try to maintain our free will, they really undermine it.

Look at what our Lord says here! He says that without him we cannot do anything great, nor anything small, indeed, we cannot do anything at all. This is not surprising, because neither does God do anything without him: without him was made nothing that was made (John 1:3). For our works are either from the power of nature or from divine grace. If they are from the power of nature, then, since every action of nature is from the Word of God, no nature can act to do anything without him. If our works are from the power of grace, then, since he is the author of grace, because grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17), then it is obvious that no meritorious work can be done without him: not that we are capable of thinking anything of ourselves as originating from ourselves; our capability is from God (2 Cor 3:5). Therefore, if we cannot even think without it coming from God, much less can we do anything else. (Commentary on the Gospel of John 15:5).

5. St Augustine points out: “His next words are not, Without me you can do but little, but «you can do nothing». Whether then it be little or much, without Him it is impracticable; for without Him nothing can be done.

And adds: “Let the self-complacent answer it, who think they have no need of God for the performance of good works. Fight they not against such a truth, those men of corrupt mind, reprobate concerning the faith (2 Timothy 3:8), whose reply is only full of impious talk, when they say: It is of God that we have our existence as men, but it is of ourselves that we are righteous? What is it you say, you who deceive yourselves, and, instead of establishing freewill, cast it headlong down from the heights of its self-elevation through the empty regions of presumption into the depths of an ocean grave? Why, your assertion that man of himself works righteousness, that is the height of your self-elation. But the Truth contradicts you, and declares, «The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine». Away with you now over your giddy precipices, and, without a spot whereon to take your stand, vapour away at your windy talk. These are the empty regions of your presumption. But look well at what is tracking your steps, and, if you have any sense remaining, let your hair stand on end. For whoever imagines that he is bearing fruit of himself is not in the vine, and he that is not in the vine is not in Christ, and he that is not in Christ is not a Christian. Such are the ocean depths into which you have plunged. (Commentary on the Gospel of John).

I wish you to always live in Him and thus bear much fruit for your present and future life.

I remember you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo