Today’s Gospel: John 15:9-11
We are in the fifth week of Easter, so it is fitting that today the focus of the readings are love, joy, and freedom of the children of God. The gospel is from the Last Farewell given by Jesus before his betrayal and arrest. It is part of a larger discourse in which Jesus is describing that he is one with his followers as a vine is with the branches. The message of Easter distilled in a Word is this union with Jesus: “Remain in my love… so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
In what does this joy consist, but remaining in Christ’s love? As Jesus says in another passage, “Without me, you can do nothing.” It is His love flowing into us and through us towards others, enabling us to do good, that gives us joy.
All too often the message of Christianity is perceived as either a heavy burden, a lack of freedom, or a system of dogmas without deep spiritual joy. This is far from the truth, so why is it perceived this way? Perhaps we are too much like the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 15:7-21) who wanted to oblige the Gentiles to the Jewish tradition of circumcision, but Paul reminded them that the newfound faith of the Gentiles had to be rooted not in a law that would bind them unnecessarily, but in grace: “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” As long as we believe that we can earn God’s love or salvation in Christ, we are not able to enter into the spirit of love, joy, and freedom. The more we give ourselves over to God’s will and his designs for our lives, the more we are truly free.
What are we holding onto that is not essential? What are we demanding of others? If we see ourselves as part of Jesus, like the branches are part of the Vine, we may enter into the freedom of the children of God that this reading urges, and joy will take root in our hearts. With the psalmist, that joy will cause us to “sing” and “bless” God, “announce and tell” of the Lord’s salvation “among the nations” (Psalm 96).
Lord, help me remain in you by casting from my heart anger, jealousy, resentment, and condemnation of others; teach me humility so that I can remain always in your grace.
Do I secretly think I can earn God’s love by prayers and good works? I resolve to give thanks for grace, which alone enables us to accept God’s love in joy.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Julie Paavola