Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reflection for the 5th Week of Easter, Part 2

Thursday – Joy

In today's Gospel, Jesus desires that His joy may be in His disciples and that their joy may be complete. His longing extends to us, too. Jesus wants us to be joyful, filled with joy, a joy that He provides, a joy that is complete.

Many of us, however, often feel anything but joyful. We are harried, depressed, anxious, and stressed. Joy seems to play little, if any, part in our lives.

How, then, do we become the joyful people that Jesus wants us to be? First, let's reflect on the nature of joy. It is not merely happiness or a good feeling or even excitement although it can include all of these. The Greek word for joy is chara, and it comes from a root that means “to extend favor, lean towards, be favorably disposed.” The noun derived from that root, then, literally means a recognition or awareness of favor.

So joy, in its ultimate meaning, is a recognition and response to God's favor or grace. It perceives God's great gifts, it identifies the Giver, and it responds with wonder, gratitude, and delight. Joy sees and responds to the amazing things God has done for us.

And when we stop to consider what God has done for us, how He has forgiven us and saved us and is preparing us for Heaven, how can we not be joyful? We still feel the cares and stresses of daily life, but deep down, we experience joy, and if we let it bubble up to the surface, it will overflow. That's what Jesus wants for us...that kind of joy.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from HELPS Word Studies on

Friday – A Letter

The first conflict of opinion came early in the history of the Church. Christians debated, sometimes vigorously, whether or not all who accepted faith in Christ would also have to accept the entire Jewish tradition and catalog of ritual practices including circumcision.

The apostles and elders met in council at Jerusalem to make a decision. Allowing themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, they discussed how God had poured out the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles and worked wonders for them. He had shown no distinction. Christianity was for everyone. Peter had received a vision, too, that suggested that times were changing and old practices need not apply to newcomers.

Finally, led by Peter and James, and ultimately by the Holy Spirit, the council decided that Gentile Christians were not required to follow Jewish customs. They were to avoid some non-negotiables like meat that had been sacrificed to idols, blood, meat from strangled animals, and unlawful marriage. Otherwise, they were free to believe in peace, relying on God's grace for their salvation and unhindered by rules that even most Jews failed to keep.

The Gentiles were delighted by the letter the council sent to them. They readily agreed to its requirements, happy to be accepted for who they were, happy to be saved, and happy to be part of a Church that listened to God and acted accordingly.

Saturday – Prevented by the Holy Spirit

As Paul traveled through the Mediterranean world on his missionary journeys, he often encountered road blocks. There were times when he simply couldn't go where he thought he wanted to go. But he recognized the reason for this: the Holy Spirit was preventing him.

We don't know exactly how the Spirit prevented Paul for traveling to certain places. Sometimes the Spirit seems to have spoken directly to the apostle's heart. But other times He used events and people and circumstances to guide Paul's journey. Illness may have slowed Paul down. Hostilities from others may have limited his movements. Weather may have turned him in another direction. In any case, Paul recognized the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and he followed Him, leaving behind his own plans and going wherever the Spirit sent him.

How is the Holy Spirit guiding your life? Have you ever felt like you were prevented from doing something you really wanted to do? Perhaps later on you realized that what you wanted really wasn't the best thing for you. Perhaps you were even glad that you were pushed in another direction.

The Holy Spirit guides each of us in many different ways. It's up to us to discern His will and follow His lead. He always knows what's best for us even when we think we don't agree.

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