Acts 15:7-21; Ps 96:1-3,10; Jn 15:9-11
What makes joy complete? Sharing joy makes joy complete. Yet, how does one share joy? Does the responsorial psalm make a suggestion? Perhaps we share joy as we sing a new song, announce his salvation, tell his glory, or say among the nations-God is King. Sharing takes many forms, but it depends most of all on the substance of what is shared. Indeed, joy can be sung, announced, told, said, danced, painted, cooked, filmed, printed, etc. Joy shared is joy communicated. Communication demands both a “what” and a “how.” We communicate a certain substance through a certain medium. The apostles struggled to share the good news of Christ, the Risen Lord, in a way that it would be understood to both Jews and Gentiles.
In the council of Jerusalem many opinions and many perspectives were heard and debated, and Saint Luke shares the joy of that first church council as they came to a Holy Spirit inspired resolution. Saint Peter has the final word during the presentations, and he shares the joy of the conversion of Cornelius and his household. In response to the proclamation of the Gospel these Gentiles were filled with the Holy Spirit and the Lord purified their hearts by means of faith also. Such a divine movement of grace and mercy should not be ignored as the early church seeks guidance within this controversy. Saint Peter argues that if we believe that it is the same faith and Holy Spirit who works an interior change in the hearts of both Jews and Gentiles then why try to force circumcision and the whole burden of the law upon the new converts? Would this not be testing God? It is Saint James who makes reference to the prophets to affirm Saint Peter’s argument. The joy of the Lord is in rebuilding the hut of David by joining all the nations to the House of Israel. Just as David’s heart was after God’s own heart, so too, his descendant will rule over a people chosen to bear his name. The testimony of Saint Peter and the witness of Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas is confirmed by Saint James’ reference to the prophet’s vision about the hut of David, “from its ruins I will rebuild it and set it up again, so that all the rest of mankind and all the nations that bear my name may seek out the Lord.” Saint James and the whole council set up boundaries for the new converts that enabled table fellowship among Jews and Gentiles. Unless they can share at the table of the Lord the two cannot become one; they cannot share the joy. However, following the whole Mosaic Law is not made a prerequisite for conversion and membership in the body of Christ. Rather, four norms of the “holiness codes” are presented as that which helps to guide a believer after conversion has taken place. Keeping the commandments then is a way to live in his love as the Gospel of Saint John proclaims.
The Lord Jesus commands his disciples: “live on in my love.” This is not a command to live on an emotional high. Rather, the Lord clarifies that “you will live in my love if you keep my commandments, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and live in his love.” The Lord Jesus reveals that his eternal joy is to obey the Father. Sharing the joy of the Lord Jesus demands living in obedient love. The substance of our joy is the bread and wine of the Eucharist, which makes us complete when we live out the unity that we share in the fellowship of the Table of the Lord.