Last Sunday readings you may recall, spoke about the union of a Christian with God using the image of a vine and branches. Further, it was suggested that all humanity, whether they have conscious belief in God or not, are branches also. The reason is because the Father through Christ is the source of all human life. Those who acknowledge God as their source actively engage in a loving relationship with the Trinity which produces lush fruit for the world. The imagery of last week shows us “what is” a disciple.
Today’s readings dovetail perfectly with last week’s and provide the “why” we are disciples. Jesus says, “As the Father loves me, so I love you. Remain in my love.”
Remaining in Christ’s love we are told is keeping his commandments. By keeping God’s commandments, a person actively responds to God’s initiative of love with his own wiliness to love God back, and hence, a relationship of love emerges. With all true loving relationships, the love does not selfishly remain between the two, but rather, it emanates past them, enriching those outside the relationship. This is how the fruit is produced.
But what about those who do not know Christ intimately, can they share the loving relationship enough to bear some fruit? The simple answer is yes. They too can bear fruit but not in the abundance of a charitable Christian. Those through no fault of their own, can obey God’s commandments by following and obeying natural law. The operative phrase is “through no fault of their own.” Remember, the good and the bad are all attached to the vine, but only some will produce fruit because they choose to love. Those who follow the natural law choose to love, although their love in not complete.
Hopefully, we have now laid the foundation for love and are now ready to explain the “why” aspect of discipleship. Jesus continues to teach us why we should love, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. The “why” is now resoundingly answered: SO, OUR JOY MAY BE COMPLETE!
So many people in our world are joyless and angry. Most of them are sadly content with living without joy because they think their joylessness is a result of their hopeless situation or a world doing them wrong. If only they would recognize the lack of joy in their life is actually a lack of love of God and neighbor.
We need to help them by proclaiming most boldly; joy comes from love of God and love of neighbor! The tradition is resplendent with examples of saints and martyrs who lived in very difficult situations, all of which, did not extinguish their joy one iota.
If the saints could be joyful, it is not impossible for us to share in joy, but only if we strive to follow the example of Jesus’ selflessness. If we refuse to love, joy is quickly replaced by anger and violence.
There is a definite correlation between the anger and violence (both physical and verbal) and the secular world who has turned their back on God. Too many people have searched for happiness and contentment without God in all the wrong places, and incidentally, to no avail. They will search for it in power, money, control, sexual pleasure, drugs, escapism and all the other sordid options open to them; and yet, they still remain angry, violent or both. Joy for them has become elusive.
It will always be elusive without God.
What then is a Christian? A person who loves Christ and follows his example of love by willingly producing good fruit, making the world a better place for the neighbors he loves.
Why are we Christians? Because we want to love and prefer to be joyful instead of being miserable.
You see, true joy is closer than you think.