A Gospel Reflection
by Deacon Kurt Heinrich

Thursday, May 14th , 5th week in Easter
Gospel John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love 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 no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”

Dear Friends and Family,

Today’s gospel speaks about joy. Joy is a spiritual gift. Our Lord is not talking about joy as an excited frenzy, but as a deep contentment that brings peace. When was the last time we heard someone talk about joy? When did we last consider our own joy? We know what it feels like when joy is not around, and we might think that it is nonexistent, especially during these trying times. Our uncertainty and our fears drain away whatever joy might be present in our lives. Jesus boldly professes his love for us as the source of our joy. Then Jesus says something extraordinary, so “that my joy might be in you." The creator of all things is joyful when we keep his commandments. Imagine putting a smile on God’s face by keeping his commandments. When we keep his commandments, the result is that our joy is complete. How wonderful that the Lord has shown us the connection between his commandments and joy! But God does not stop there; Jesus goes on to call us his friend, a friend that has chosen us. Yes, the Lord has chosen you and me.

Jesus unites joy and friendship in our Gospel today. As children we have all experienced that moment when it was time to divide into teams. Two captains choose from all those that want to play. We may remember the joy of being a captain and picking your friend for your team, or the thrill of your friend as the captain, choosing you. The joy is two-fold; first we are wanted and desired by our friend, second, we are so important in our friend’s life that we are chosen first. The same holds true for our relationship with God. First, God desires a relationship with each of us, this brings us joy. Second, we are important, we are a priority to God. We may remember the sorrow of being one of the last ones picked for a team. Remember that our God is not limited by time. All of us are God’s first choice and that is what friends do, they chose their friends first, that action brings us joy, and that joy is complete when we serve God well, obeying the commandments God has given us. The language of our faith says it this way, “We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood.” Take some time today to think about how you can share joy, that deep contentment, with those you live with or with friends, even at a physical distance. What would bring enjoyment to someone close to you? Then at the end of the day, take a personal inventory of when you experienced joy. Today in the midst of great suffering and sorrow, we have an opportunity to realize complete joy. When in friendship, we love like Jesus loved and follow the commandments; this is how we will stand apart as a joyful people.
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