Pursue Joy

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 16, 2021 – Seventh Sunday of Easter - John 17:11-19

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Today’s gospel reads like a formal prayer – which it actually is. A special feature of this prayer is that it offers us a peek into the mind and heart of Jesus. Two things stick out for special attention.

First, Jesus wants us to be “one.” He wants all of us to be more united than divided, more connected with each other than separated. We are to actively be more supportive of each other than restricting each other’s pursuit of the good. Obviously, this is quite an idealistic goal but is not Jesus the world’s greatest idealist? Thank God for that!

This desire to achieve the good of all would bother some people today because their interests are mostly their own. They also assume that resources of the world are limited. They live in what’s called “a zero-sum world.” That means if someone else get what they want, I won’t get what I want. The guiding judgment underlying this narrowness assumes that there are limits on everything.

Yet Jesus seems to say that God’s goodness and love are without limit. So is what’s possible. The good life is what God desires for all of us. And while Jesus is realistic in his assessment of the world’s condition – for instance the persistent presence of evil – he still calls for more generosity of spirit, more pursuit of the good for all.

The other part of his prayer worth our consideration is what Jesus said about joy. He wants us all to experience the joy of life that is built into the way God created our world. God loves us and wants the best for us. God wants us to joyfully enter each day of our lives. Of course, that is not always possible, but it stands that there are  ideals. Like I said, Jesus is the Great Idealist.

What comes to mind these days is that Pope Francis also is a great proponent of joy. Many of his major writings have joy in their titles. For instance, his first encyclical, Joy of the Gospel, then his Joy of Love (on family life), followed by his teaching on holiness, Rejoice and be Glad. In other words, he frequently echoes the words of today’s gospel: “I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.”

So, let us all pursue joy for ourselves, especially for those close to us: those in our family, our neighbors, and everyone in the world who now share life with us in these very challenging times.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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