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. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.’
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’
What does the word joy mean to you? What feelings and emotions does it conjure up? Are those feelings and emotions rooted in past events, perhaps long-past events? Are they rooted in the reality of the present, or are they wrapped in hopes, both realistic and unrealistic, about the future? What does the word joy mean to you?
The dictionary definition of joy revolves around words like: intense gladness, rapture, delight, rejoicing and a beloved person. Do these words of definition resonate with your use and experience of the word joy, or do you have a more nuanced approach to the way in which the word joy describes your experiences of life?
In today’s reading Jesus associates his earthly teaching and preaching with an intensely joyous experience: the experience of our sharing in his joy, a joy that is so complete that nothing can transcend its intensity.
The words in today’s reading are specifically addressed to his twelve disciples, but they are also intended for us. Jesus said to those disciples: You did not choose me but I chose you. We know the truth of that statement because we have accounts of Jesus calling those twelve diverse and ordinary men into an eternal relationship with him. The truth of today’s reading lies in the fact that Jesus continues to choose people to be his disciples, and that we are among the chosen ones. Jesus calls everyone into the most intimate and joyous of relationships. But, if we are to know the intensity of that joy we need to take his call seriously.
Today we are challenged to accept that Jesus does not want us to be mere servants, he wants us to enter into a much more personal relationship, that of friendship. He has chosen us to be his friends and, as friends, to travel the same path as him. It is when we do take that path that we will come to know a joy that exceeds any human expectations we may have.
Too often we treat our feelings of joy as a matter of nostalgic reminiscence, or as an unrealistic dream of what might be. Today we are being challenged to live in the present and to know, and share, the joy of our friendship with God’s Son. Let us pray for the strength to journey with our heavenly best friend, to know the joy of that journey and that friendship, and to let that joy radiate into the lives of all we meet day by day.