Not too long ago my family sat in our small family room, a fire crackling and a movie playing. We enjoyed popcorn and everyone snuggled in their pjs together. The nine of us watched a silly bear ride a bathtub down a staircase and my children, all under the age of ten, roared with laughter. My husband and I laughed too, great big belly laughs, and not so much at the movie, but at the sheer joy of it all. It felt like love and warmth were bursting from that room and filling the whole home.
When Jesus says that He wants His joy to be in us and for our joy to be complete (John 15:11) I think of that family movie night. The laughter and love in that room that night is probably the closest thing to perfect joy I have ever experienced and it was profoundly beautiful. If Jesus wants to give me more of that then yes, please!
In fact, all of today’s readings sound so wonderful: Baptism, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, communion with God—they are for all of us. God is love. Christ died for our sins. We are Jesus’ friends. We have been chosen. The Lord has appointed us to do work that will be fruitful. I especially like that last one as it brings me great comfort to think that the sometimes menial work I am doing day in and day out is seen by God as fruitful.
But the readings end with a clear command from Christ: love one another. I know my heart and its natural tendencies—it is stubborn, jealous, insecure, and bitter. My first inclination is to protest I cannot love. I refuse to love those who have hurt me. I will not love those who disagree with me. I cannot love those who are deep in sin. And when I give in to those first thoughts I feel the hope of all Christ’s promises drain away. My joy escapes me. My work feels empty.
Thanks be to God, I have learned to tamper those first reactions and push through them to find the love of God. I will love. I will love those who have hurt me, who disagree with me, who are deep in sin. I will love with kindness and compassion and cheer. And when I make that choice and find that love to fulfill Christ’s commandment, His joy is in me.
And it turns out, sisters, that that is the foundation for the enveloping joy of a home full of love and laughter and a brilliant family movie night.
Are you struggling to love those around you? Can you believe that through this love comes joy? Pray an Our Father today and hold this in your heart.
Bonnie Engstrom is a writer, baker, speaker, and homemaker. She, her husband, and seven children live in central Illinois, and her son’s alleged miraculous healing through the intercession of Venerable Fulton Sheen was submitted to the Vatican for Sheen’s beatification. Bonnie pretends she has a green thumb, bakes a fantastic chocolate chip cookie, loves naps and chai tea, and blogs. You can find out more about her here.