Jesus said to his disciples, ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you.
When you think of going to Church, what images and memories spring to mind? Do you think of the peace, the presence and the joy of Christ, or do you think of rows of solemn and disapproving faces? Do you think of the living word of God, of joyous singing and meaningful prayer, or do you think of dry and solemn words in an archaic language that is difficult to understand in 2021? Do you recall inspiring preaching with a message that both feeds and encourages, or do you think of those interminable minutes that have to be gone through because they are part of the tradition of going to Church?
Being part of a Church community is an essential part of living the full and faithful Christian life. We are called to come together in community on a regular basis in order that we might be fed, nurtured and strengthened as both disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ in the world. This is the teaching we find throughout the New Testament. The followers of Christ gathered together, either with him in person, or in his name, to be fed, to meditate upon his teaching and their relationship with God, to pray together and to go out and emulate his life of love and service. This was not the situation solely for those who were members of the early Church, it is our calling too!
For so many, the joy of being part of a community of faith has turned into a chore. Joy has been replaced with a sense of social obligation. The joy and strength of Church membership has become a matter of personal preference and private spirituality. But … Jesus said: I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you.
We know that joy is infectious. Just think of the times when you have been in the company of others; think of the moments when the joy of one person has ‘infected’ the whole group and there has been spontaneous laughter and merriment. That is what Jesus is calling us to experience when we come into his presence. Of course, there are times when we need to be quiet and still, but that does not mean that we should be distanced from the joy of knowing and loving Jesus.
When we read scripture and when we pray we should be prepared for our hearts to burst with joy and song because of the life-giving and life-affirming activity with which we are engaged. We should approach all moments we share with fellow believers in Christ with the joy that Jesus himself has given us.
Let us pray that we might find the joy of Christ in every moment of our lives.
Let us pray that we might set aside our fear of the disapproval of others and that we might, instead, be super-spreaders of God’s love and joy with all whom we meet.