That your joy may be complete

When I started reading the Scriptures I used to find the Farewell Discourse in John (Chaps 13-17) meant little to me. Over the years I have realised its impact. It is a gathering of the teachings of Jesus in a final testament of all he had lived with his disciples and what he wanted to share with the world.  It has to be read slowly, in bits.  There are many themes: love one another, remain in me, peace I give you, laying down your life for your friends and the coming of the Spirit.

But perhaps today we can reflect on another of those themes: the promise of completion.  We do not have to reflect long to know how incomplete we are. The older we become the more we experience this. These are trivial examples but yesterday I went for a walk down across the dam close to where we live. On my way I met some small children gathering firewood. They asked me to break off a dead branch hanging from a tree but beyond their reach.  I managed to grasp the end of it and pulled as hard as I could. Then I remembered my recent hernia operation and the strict instructions I was given. I had to say to the children, “I’m sorry, I can’t manage”. They looked disappointed and even confused.

As I continued I met an older boy fetching water. He had his wheelbarrow full of water in plastic containers.  He was exhausted.  I attempted to lift the barrow.  Again I felt my limitations.  Again I had to say, “Sorry”.  I went on my way pondering my accumulating limitations!

But as my physical limitations mount so does my desire to reach out to God, the God of completion.  Death is the end of limitation.  And we are invited, even now, to taste something of the completion we will one day experience. “I have told you this,” says Jesus, “so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.” (John 15:11)  These words were written many decades after Jesus’ death.  They are the product of long reflection and experience of the Spirit leading the Church.  The disciples had to live many of the trials Jesus himself had met.  In doing so they discovered the truth of these words: to be faithful in the time of trial brings joy and peace.

Forgiveness is the great demonstration of this.  The women in the gospel (Luke 7:36ff) was broken by her sins.  But when she experienced the forgiveness of Jesus she just went wild with joy.  She poured out her love weeping at his feet and drying them with her hair.  It was a “scandalous” gesture to those who saw it but for her it was a taste of completion.

7 May 2018                                         Easter Sunday 6 B

Acts 19:25 …48                                  I John 4:7-10                           John 15:9-17

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