Without me you can do nothing.
Some years ago, my friend Father Frans Berkhout and I were in an airport on our way home from a vacation. We were in a long line of passengers waiting to have our luggage scanned before boarding our plane. Passengers were placing their luggage on a conveyer belt, and the belt was steadily carrying the various items through the scanner. The airline employees were apparently giving the scanner their undivided attention. The line of passengers inched along at a snail’s pace until eagle-eye Father Frans got close enough to see what was actually happening.
There on the floor behind the airline workers was the plug to the luggage scanner! Yes, the conveyer belt was working properly, but the luggage scanner was not even connected to the electric power. The disingenuous airline employees were simply going through the motions, pretending to scan the luggage, when, in reality, they were doing absolutely nothing.
Indignant Father Frans Berkhout piped up in his high-pitched Brooklynese, “Hey, not for nuttin’, but the machine’s not even plugged in!” This, you can be sure, caused quite a stir and even some panic among the passengers. The airline employees were covered with confusion, embarrassment, and guilt as airport security moved in to handle the situation. It was not pretty.
Jesus says (John 15:5): “I am the vine, you are the branches….for without me you can do nothing.” When Our Lord walked the earth, people knew nothing about electricity. Yet if Jesus Himself were speaking to us right now, I bet He would translate the Gospel into something like this: I am the electric current, and you are the appliances; apart from me you can do nothing. Unless we are truly plugged into Christ through regular prayer and reception of the sacraments, we can accomplish absolutely nothing for Christ and His Kingdom. We may look good on the outside, but in reality we are only going through the motions.
If my friend Father Frans Berkhout were here, he would probably say something like, “Hey, not for nuttin’, but how are we supposed to do any good for God if we’re not even plugged into His power?”