In the beginning of our Gospel reading for today, Jesus says to His disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”
In the past, I have thought that “in my name” is a great qualifier for what Jesus promises. I don’t believe that the Father is going to give us anything contrary to Jesus’ commandment to love. But what about now, in the midst of a pandemic? Can’t, shouldn’t, God just take it away, and with it all the pain and suffering and distress that it has caused?
As one who has tried to grow in understanding of the spirituality of the Passion of Jesus, I’m not sure that is the “ask” I need to be making. Perhaps Jesus is inviting you and me to consider what we need to be asking for in His name. And if we were to ask for the alleviation of suffering, perhaps we also need to ask for the grace to do as He did. Perhaps we need to ask for the willingness to be God’s instruments for alleviating suffering, in whatever way we can, whether it’s supporting those on the front lines, or making masks or making phone calls, or working for justice and peace.
Would that make our joy “complete?” Maybe not, but it might help make our joy not dependent on the effects of Covid-19, but on the effects of God’s love for us.
In another part of our Gospel reading, Jesus says, “I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you clearly about the Father.” In the sacrifices and heroism in both large and small gestures; in the love and compassion shown to those in need, maybe Jesus has spoken clearly to us about the Father. God is with us in this, and God will get us to the other side.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.