July 2021

July 2021 

My joy … in you and your joy complete”

John 15.11 (NRSV)


Towards the end of John’s gospel, Jesus blesses the disciples with four promises of ‘joy.’  It seems odd to ponder ‘joy’ just prior to Jesus’ passion and execution.  Yet Jesus must equip the disciples with a sustained vision of things beyond his leave-taking of them.


How can the disciples be joyful, having risked everything to follow a man about to be tortured and killed?  What ‘joy’ was possible, unless Jesus overcame the Roman authorities and redeemed Israel?  Jesus gives his friends no promise of future happiness or contentment while on earth - only a powerful invitation to grow in love, hope and joy.  In time, they marvel deeply at the Holy Spirit’s power to transform, only fully possible once Jesus had left them: then they can perceive his joy inside them, impossible to destroy once faith and God’s grace are established in them.


As with the first disciples, Jesus beckons us, in good times and in bad, to allow joy to permeate our hearts - joy in carrying on Christ’s work, sharing the Good News in the world until called into eternity.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit and like the others, grows and flourishes as we abide in Christ and he abides in us.  As we link ourselves ever more closely to him as branches of a fruitful vine, our joy ‘may be complete’, believing that Jesus has perfectly achieved his vocation, offering salvation to all creation.


Pondering this saying in our hearts, we might recall past experiences of joy, and reflect on burgeoning new life opening up in nature around us or on our joyful situations or relationships. Where is this abiding joy, lingering despite the suffering or fear we face personally, or see in our world today?


Jesus achieved joy for himself and us, joy that can’t be taken away.  Some people confuse happiness with joy. Joy is deeper: for example, coming when we finish a difficult, seemingly endless task.  Our joy will be complete, as we persevere through suffering, pain or fear.  We joyfully experience resurrection life when we die more to self, and live increasingly within his new risen life.


We pray for others, that their joy be complete, whatever struggles they face now.  We pray over our troubled world too: ‘my joy be in you and your joy complete.’