What is it that makes our joy complete? Living in the love of Christ, living within His commandments. The joy we are promised isn’t easy, isn’t simple—but it is complete.
Saint John hears Jesus in the Gospel, and he goes on to live out the commandment—evangelizing with a mission of complete joy. Joy isn’t simple happiness. Both Jesus and Saint John knew that well. Jesus commanded Saint John from the Cross: “Behold, your mother.” And Saint John, we are told, took Mary into his home without question.
I am not that good at listening to simple commandments from anyone, even the Lord, and I almost never obey without question. But that is the straightforward guidance Jesus gives us: Listen. Listen, accept, obey.
The commandments that we are asked to follow are not easy. Loving each other and living in relationship are hard. Though I am single and could easily come home and tune out after a long day, being in relationship with God means that I should never be tuning out completely. I need to keep my heart open to Him and to those who make up the Body of Christ with me. Though I am not bound to anyone in marriage, I am still bound sacramentally to the whole Church through my Baptism and Confirmation.
Living in relationship is not easy, and Saint John excels at it again and again throughout the Gospels and after the Resurrection. The Beloved Disciple’s openness to individuals (as we see in his deep connections to Jesus and Mary) and the community (as we see in his epistles) model for us a way toward complete joy.
The steps to complete joy that Saint John’s example teaches are easy to list, but about as hard as they come to put into practice. I imagine I will spend the rest of my life learning how to live them out.
Listen. Follow. Love.
Brigid Hogan is a midwestern graduate student who finds peace in lakes, the Mass, and fiction when she isn’t ensconced in schoolwork. Find out more about her here.