Perhaps some of you have great-uncle Marmaduke still with you this fifth day of Christmas?! Maybe he is rapidly becoming a real burden and testing your Christmas spirit ... drinking...
At the very start of this Reflection it is valuable for us to slow down – for a moment or two merely stay yourself, and stay with the Lord! The word stay has quite a few meanings. In our first instance, the meaning is to check or restrain, and secondly, to remain with or at.
Too often we find ourselves rushing to Mass or rushing through our reflection because it has to be done. We must learn to stay ourselves – check and restrain; otherwise it is difficult to stay with the Lord – remain, be, with him. When we check ourselves and make an effort to BE WITH HIM, it becomes so much easier to focus on the specific time at hand.
In TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 15: 9 – 17] Jesus issues the invitation “remain in my love,” and then gives the reason when he adds “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”(In this extract we come across the “I have called you friends” verse referred to last week.) If we are to remain in his love our experience must surely teach us that we have to stay(check or restrain) ourselves in order for our living, in some real way, to BE WITH HIM.
Here it is interesting to recall just two incidents which occur earlier in John’s version of the Gospel. The first records (1:35 -39) two of the Baptist’s disciples following Jesus, and asking “where do you stay?”“Come and see” was the reply, and they went “and spent the rest of the day withhim.”(You might notice that afterwards Andrew went off and told his story?!)
The second (4:40) occurs in the famous encounter at Jacob’s Well between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. At the end, the villagers “pressed him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.” The two disciples who stayed with Jesus found themselves at the start of a life-changing experience, and we know from the closing verses of the incident at Jacob’s Well that the life of the Woman and the other townsfolk changed.
Now, take a look at the events recorded in THE FIRST READING [ACTS 10: 25 – 26. 34 – 35. 44 – 48]. Notice how it ends in exactly the same way as at the Samaritan Village. The last sentence of the reading tells us that “afterwards they begged him to stay on for some days.” There is a need in each one of us to seek (and if necessary create) situations in which the Risen Lord is not only invited to stay with us but is encouraged to do so, and welcomed. If we return to the very start of this Reflection we easily recognise that if we are to encourage and welcome, we will have to (in both senses of the word) STAY OURSELVES!
If we take cognisance of the fact that both Samaritans and Cornelius (a Roman centurion) were considered to be outside the community of faith we could ask ourselves whether those who see themselves as inside it should not make, at least, the same effort to go and see where Jesus lives and stay with him for specific periods? In addition, words from TODAY’S PSALM [97 or 96] take on real meaning: “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders … all the ends of theearth have seen the salvation of our God.” Think of the joy that existed in both Samaria and Caesarea as a result of their pressing the visitor to stay a short while? AND, we are reminded that salvation does not belong to a select few – the Church, for example, is not a clique or a privileged club!
We must now join the SECOND READING [1 JOHN 4: 7 – 10] with our Gospel extract. First of all the Reading reminds us of the central, pivotal, importance of the PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him.” We could not love God unless God loved us – and this love (both ways) is dependant on Jesus Christ. As our Psalm tells us “the Lord has made known his salvation,” and this making known is in and through Jesus.
However we must not forget our love of and for God, together with our pressing Jesus to stay with us, is essentially linked to the living of the Commandments. The Commandments must be lived and not merely kept. They must become A PART of our overall approach to life. Yes, we fail and are far from perfect. So we have to genuinely and honestly STRIVE, and our striving is made more fruitful when we have the habit of regularly staying ourselves, and pressing the Lord to stay with us.
He always stays when pressed to do so. “Ring out your joy!”