“But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (Jn 16:22). Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for his horrific death by offering hope that he will see them again. That he will see them again is not a typo. We can read about the exchanges between Jesus and his risen disciples. Jesus appeared to Mary of Magdalene at the tomb, he appeared to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus, and he appeared to the ten and then the eleven with Thomas. Jesus sought out those he commissioned to proclaim his Gospel message after his Resurrection, just has he had done during his ministry before his crucifixion.
When Jesus did appear to them again, at the moment of recognition, there was great joy! It is hard for us to even imagine these early Resurrection accounts. The disciples witnessed his brutal death, lived in fear because of the very real possibility of their own persecution, and then they encountered the risen Jesus. St Paul would also shortly thereafter encounter Jesus on a different road, the one to Damascus en route to continue his persecution of the followers of Jesus. All of their hearts rejoiced and it was this joy that they proclaimed with boldness. The Apostles, like Jesus, led with joy and love to embark on their evangelical mission. They lived a difficult and challenging life that for many ended in their own brutal deaths, yet their joy carried them through and into eternity.
Life is hard, even in the best of circumstances. There is evil present in this world, not of God’s creation, because all that he has created is good. Though, through corruption of the good that he has created bad things happen to good people, and good people do bad things. Suffering, disease, violence, natural disasters, division, corruption, hatred, and dehumanization abound. It can be easy to succumb to the overwhelming tide of negativity and assume a stance of cynicism, detachment, denial, defensiveness or indifference. Yet this is not the response Jesus modeled nor has infused his followers through the ages with.
Our response to the evil and darkness of this world, as was the Apostles, is to be bearers of the joy of Jesus! We are to be as lights shining in the darkness, providing hope for those in despair, accompanying those in their struggles, and being willing to receive help when we are ourselves are in need. We cannot do any of this alone and on our own but it can be done in participation with Jesus. The Apostles, disciples, and saints that have gone before us, have shown us that it is possible to be beacons of hope in very dark places. They were all able to radiate joy and to empower and encourage because they said yes to Jesus and were infused with his power, his divinity, through participating in his life. They trusted in Jesus, may we trust in him also.
In our small group last night, I heard from the video series, “Divine Mercy in the Second Greatest Story Ever Told”, the final words of St John Paul II, which were read as the homily for Divine Mercy Sunday the day after his death. These words can be of help to us today as we seek to live a life infused with the joy of Jesus. St John Paul II wrote:
“‘Jesus, I trust in you’. This prayer, dear to so many of the devout, clearly expresses the attitude with which we too would like to abandon ourselves trustfully in your hands, O Lord, our only Saviour.
You are burning with the desire to be loved and those in tune with the sentiments of your heart learn how to build the new civilization of love. A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow, of doubt and desperation. The rays of your divine mercy restore hope, in a special way, to those who feel overwhelmed by the burden of sin.
Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us always to have this trust in your Son, our Redeemer. Help us too, St Faustina, whom we remember today with special affection. Fixing our weak gaze on the divine Saviour’s face, we would like to repeat with you: ‘Jesus, I trust in you’. Now and for ever. Amen.”
May we trust in Jesus, trust that Jesus is with us, closer than we can ever imagine, filling us with his love and joy so that we can stand as a light in the darkness. Let us accept and receive the joy Jesus offers us today, assured in the reality that no one can take this joy away from us, and let us share this joy with all we encounter today.
Photo: Ordination day 2013, ordained to share the joy of Jesus!
Link for the text of the entire homily of St John Paul II:
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, May 11, 2018: