Fullness of Joy

Fullness of Joy

Do we want to be happy, or rather, be more than happy? Do we aspire for satisfaction and contentment in life? In other words, do we want to experience fullness of joy? If yes, the gospel readings last Sunday and this Sunday, put together (John 15:1-17), teaches us the secret.

Jesus tells us, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches” (verses 4 & 5). This is the foundational teaching in becoming truly joyful. We have to remain with the Lord − maintaining our connection with him who is the source of life, abiding in him, and living in him.

How should we do so? By obeying his commandments. He said, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (verse 10). The implication is that keeping our relationship with the Lord is not only a matter of mouth service; it is as much action as it is words. In Matthew 7:21, we read, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven,” and in James 2:17, we find, “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead.”

What then are the commandments that we should keep? Since childhood, we have been hearing about the Ten Commandments, so much so that oftentimes, we take them for granted. It is thus beneficial to review them here. Taken from Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, they are as follows: (1) I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have any other gods besides me. (2) You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. (3) Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. (4) Honor your father and mother. (5) You shall not kill. (6) You shall not commit adultery. (7) You shall not steal. (8) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (9) You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. (10) You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

But wait a minute, isn’t it that we are no longer under the Law but under grace? Doesn’t that mean that we are no longer obliged to follow these commandments? Of course, not. In fact, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place” (Mt 5:17-18).

Jesus came not to disregard the law but to live out and demonstrate its higher meaning. When asked which commandment in the law is the greatest, the Lord answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Mt 22:37-40). Thus, love is the spirit of the law. When we love God and our fellowmen, we are fulfilling the law.

Genuine Christian love, then, must be done not out of compulsion or blind compliance. Rather, it should flow naturally from the very being of a believer, for love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). In teaching us to love, Jesus did not intend to impose a heavy burden on our shoulders. Rather, he knew that it is only in loving that we remain in his love, and if we remain in his love, that is when experience the fullness of joy that we have long been searching for.

This is another example of Jesus’ seemingly paradoxical teachings. We lose in order to gain. He said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). Truly, only in God will our joy will be complete, and as an add-on, he said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (Jn 15:7).

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