A Catholic Monthly Magazine


Fr Tom Ryan SM

Part 3 of 3

“That my own joy may be in you”

“I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). 

What does Jesus mean? We start with the this – expressed in the previous verse.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved 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.

This passage begins and ends with the Father’s love for the Son, indicated earlier: the only Son is “nearest to the Father’s heart” (John 1:18). Only through close intimacy (“remaining”) within the Father’s loving embrace has the Son lived and pursued his mission. This gesture extends to the disciples, then and now, through a lavish act of love fully realised in the death of Jesus. Disciples, too, should make that love their home (“remain” or “dwell”).

To “remain” in Jesus’ love entails keeping his “commandments”, as the Son has done by abiding in his Father’s love. Central here is the new commandment of Jesus – to love one another “as I have loved you” (John 13:34-5).

As the Father’s loving embrace, shared through Jesus, expands its scope, there is unity between Father, Son and believers. It must, however, bear fruit through obedience. It involves sharing in Jesus’ intense listening to the Father as expressed in “I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29).

What does desire of Jesus to share his joy imply? It points to his death as the supreme example of love, the act that most pleases and reveals the Father. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” To share in the joy of Jesus is to share in his love but, importantly, in its self-giving momentum that led to the Cross. Then, “your joy will be complete.”

What is different about the joy we receive from Jesus? It is the Cross. God’s joy is inescapably a love that brings happiness and joy through what it costs. “Your sorrow will be turned into joy,” but that joy no one shall take from you” (John 16:22). In the Christian story, ‘tears of joy’ bring both delight and healing.

Brendan Byrne offers an illuminating analogy about Jesus’s sharing of his joy.

No joy can be compared with the joy of discovering that one is very much loved by someone whom one longed to be loved by but did not dare hope that such might ever be the case (Life Abounding, NSW: St Pauls, 2014, p. 258). 

For Jesus, joy in being loved by his Abba Father was something like an experience of receiving a love that was longed for, yet, when given, seemed unexpected, and, even, astonishing.

In his desire to share that with us, there is divine reassurance that :

“you are precious in my eyes because you are honoured and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4).

To ponder

On people in my life who found joy, even in suffering. What did I learn?

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