Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

…we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way as they.

Every experience of joy or love tells us this and yet we cannot seem to buy it: “There is no containing God’s grace.”

In today’s first reading we hear the disciples of Jesus making a critically important policy decision: we must announce the gospel to every nation without restraint or restriction.

These Jews had their presuppositions about who should be told about Jesus and how new converts should accept the Lord, but they could not stand in the way of the Gospel they were supposed to announce.

The late Andrew Greeley once remarked, “Despite the best efforts of the priests, the Church continues to grow in North America!” The Chicago priest ("who never had an unpublished thought") was very critical of clerical and magisterial efforts to contain the Word of God within traditional limits. He was more inclined to the Irish definition of Catholics, “Here Comes Everybody.”

Today’s gospel should deepen our appreciation of God’s uncontainable grace.

I have told you this so that
my joy might be in you and
your joy might be complete.”

The Lord who appears to us in John 15 is fully aware of, and entirely ready for, crucifixion. The synoptic gospels described his “agony” of at least one hour following the Last Supper but John 12 describes it as a single, brief conversation with Jesus’ Father as he entered Jerusalem:

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

With this glory already secured Jesus can speak of his joy and his desire that we should know his joy. 

The stoic will suppose he embraces joy when he stifles his fears and disdains discomfort. Unfortunately, he has suppressed his capacity for all feeling and his joy will not arrive when the ordeal has passed. His expected victory over suffering is based upon the triumph of his own grim determination, rather than in confident trust in One who will save him when he has been utterly crushed.

In the VA hospital I meet Veterans who gaze impassively in the face of death. I can admire their courage but I cannot emulate them. They have chosen not to know happiness. 

Facing crucifixion, Jesus’ joy arrives immediately as he surrenders in confident and generous love to the Father. If the prospect of crucifixion -- tomorrow! -- cannot smother a man's happiness, nothing can! Jesus can think of nothing he would rather do than carry his cross and be crucified for the love of God. Overwhelmed with happiness he must invite his disciples to go with him and to witness – not as bystanders but as participants – his crucifixion, that their joy may be complete.

Now we have seen his death and resurrection. We have seen his ascension to God’s right hand and have been anointed with the gladness of the Holy Spirit. We thought we could keep this Good News to ourselves? Or decide who is worthy to hear and how they should celebrate this saving event? No one can restrain that much happiness; it has to be announced in the highways and byways to anyone.  

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.