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The Completion of Our Joy


"People are made for happiness. Rightly you thirst for happiness. Christ has the answer to this desire. But he asks you to trust Him." ~ Saint John Paul II

“Remain in my love,” Jesus urges his disciples in today’s short but potent Gospel Passage (John 15:9-11), going on to explain the importance of adhering to the Commandments in order to remain rooted in this profound love. This is the spiritual acid test, our obedience to the Commandments in a world that views them as oppressive, an encroachment to our freedom. But you can be sure that those who seek to remain in the love of God strive to keep the Commandments. All others, those who say "I know him," but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them (1 John 2:4). Jesus reminds them that His life, a life lived entirely for those whom he sought to save by way of his death and resurrection, served as the true example of this obedience. “I have told you this,” Jesus goes on to say, “so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.

The priority of the authentic Christian life is joy. I say this because without it, we will never attract others. As the quote from Saint John Paul II that kicks off today’s reflection suggests, we as a people have a yearning for joy and happiness. It’s as though this desire is wired into or written on our hearts. Conversely, a joyless person will repel others. No one relishes the company of the miserable and dreary. Jesus’ invitation to us today, one wherein he essentially welcomes us to make ourselves at home in his love, is an invitation to joy.

The love of God should in reality leave us breathless. It is the water that quenches our thirst for acceptance. It is what makes life worth living. To quote Saint John of the Cross, "The soul of the one who serves God always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, and is always in the mood for singing."

Jesus wants our life to be an expression of God's love. He wants to place us in a perpetual condition where God can shower us with the gifts of His love. This past Sunday we revisited John 15:1-8, Tuesday at daily mass as well, a passage referred to by many as the Vine and Branches Discourse Jesus is the true vine, without whom no good can happen. What is our sole responsibility then, the task we must fulfill in order to assist in the completion of our joy and the joy of those we encounter? We must strive to be a good branch. Those who are good branches and therefore bear good fruit are joyful. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “One filled with joy preaches without preaching.”

As Jesus and his teachings continue to be steadily disregarded, hated even our world becomes one that is riddled with despair, anxiety and depression. This is no coincidence. Suicide rates have reached shocking levels. This too, sadly enough, is no mere coincidence.

As human beings, we have a deeply hidden and largely inarticulate desire for something beyond this daily life. “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” as C.S. Lewis was fond of saying. We have received much from God, make no mistake, but it is the beatific vision we long for. Far too often we fail to sow happiness and joy in our wake, perhaps because we lose sight of our ultimate destiny, to one day be in this vision upon passing from this world to the next. There are many, far too many, who do not know of God’s love for us, his desire for us to live in true and genuine joy, his ultimate heavenly plan for us. Perhaps they think that God’s love is meant for others, certainly not them. Yet the divine reality of it all is that we will never encounter anyone, never cast so much as a fleeting glance at anyone, who is not deeply loved by God.

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Therein lies our life’s work: to make sure that everyone we encounter and everyone that we pray for knows that. Let us take on that task with great perseverance, great faith, great hope and yes, an even greater joy.

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