“Without Me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5) says our Lord. “The Lord never spoke in hyperboles. No words have ever been spoken with a greater measure than His. Therefore, when He says that without Him we can do nothing, then this should be taken literally. He is referring to good, not to evil. We can do no good without Christ, independently of Him or contrary to Him. He is the owner, giver and inspiration of every good thing.” (Bishop Nikolai.)
The miracle which is the theme of Lk. 5:1-11 affirms Christ’s words. We hear s the poor fishermen complain when He commands them to take their boats out into the deep and cast their nets. “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” (Luke5:5) Just before that He had seen them washing their nets. Why? Because of the mud and the detritus that was floating in the shallow water. Indeed, when they obeyed the Lord, “they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:6-7)
“We have here the image of laboring without the help pf God and laboring with His help. As long as a man is toiling in the attempt to achieve something with just his own power, everything falls from his hands. But when the Lord approaches, one good thing follows another,” writes St. Theophanes the Recluse, emphasizing that this is true of spiritual as well as earthly matters. “Sometimes a person will toil and labor, yet with no success. But when God’s blessing descends upon him, suddenly everything falls into place and there is success. Those who are vigilant of themselves and their ways, know this from experience,” says this holy father.
We have a saying, “God equals happiness.” Without Him, there can be no happiness.
All around us we see busy people who are falling over backwards to acquire something. If we were to judge by the amount of hard work they put in, the sky would be the limit for them. Sadly, this is not the case. Often something happens and all their sweat and tears are turned into nothing. It is as if one were gathering hay into a haystack, sweating the whole day in the summer heat, and just as he is about to raise his pitchfork for the last time and place the last bit of hay on top of the stack, the hay tilts to one side and slowly, unstoppably, falls to the side.
“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it,” (Proverbs 10:22) says the wise Solomon. In vain does man stumble and fall, toil and labor, embittering his own life as well as that of others. If God will not help him, he will not go far. And King David the Singer of Psalms says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) This prophet of God confronts us face to face and tells us that without God’s blessing it is useless to rise early and go to bed late, for without His blessing we cannot even invoke sleep on our tortured body and troubled mind. (Psalm 127:2) Bishop Nikolai adds to the Prophet’s wise words his own reasoning, something that each of us should know. “If the builders are laboring in the name of God, they will build a palace, even if their hands are weak and their material scant. But if they build in their own name and against Him, then their work will be wasted and, like the tower of Babel will quickly become dust. The support of God’s single finger is stronger than all the supporting pillars of the entire world.”
“I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor His descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25) This is what each one of us should bear in mind, especially those who are tired of honest work and integrity, and who sometimes wistfully wish that they had taken the other, easier path of the sinners of these world, who seem to have had it easy. It is very easy to fall into the trap of this way of thinking, as it often takes some time to see and understand how sorrowful the end of all sinners is.
“Man dreams, God decides,” is our old Serbian saying. If we do not somehow fit our own will into God’s will, then all of our work is in vain and the devil is free to take it, as the popular saying goes. “But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.” (Leviticus 26:14,16, 20) Probably the greatest punishment for any one is to eat their bread yet not be satisfied. (Leviticus 26:26)
“Without God, do not even venture over your doorstep,” the saying goes. “No labor on our part is ever successful without God’s help. Without His blessing, sowing will not bring a harvest. All of our human reasoning which is contrary to God cannot bear fruit even if it be the size of a mustard seed.” (Bishop Nikolai)
It is useful, brothers and sisters, to think about these Divine truths from time to time.