The World Is Us | Season of Joy

Season of Joy

Today's Season of Joy reflection on John 15:18-21 is by Eric T. Styles.

Since 2016, Eric has served as the Rector of Carroll Hall at the University of Notre Dame. He holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Loyola University Chicago, and has worked at Saint Benedict the African Catholic Church, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, as well as the Theatre School of DePaul University. Eric collaborates with the music art ensemble, Afro House, and writes about theology, liturgy, and contemporary culture.

The World Is Us

from John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.

To read the full scripture passage, please visit: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/052122.cfm

Missed yesterday's reflection? Click here to listen, or click here for all reflections to date.

Us and them.

At first blush, that’s what I heard when reading the text. Whoever said that Jesus doesn’t take sides?

And yet, in a polarized society, such rhetoric seems inflammatory and unhelpful. We live in a time of great political and social strife. Our lives on social media are testaments to a failure to find common ground.

So how can Jesus’ strident words about disciples being hated by the world be useful to us?

Have we not had enough of “us and them?”

I propose that it’s best today to begin by situating the words “you” and “the world”—a world that hates you, on a personal level, an internal one.

In other words, we are like our dear friend Peter: complicated and conflicted.

The word “world” in this passage from John does translate from “kosmos." There is a universe within each of us. We, like Peter, desire to do good, to encounter beauty and truth. We want a meaningful life.

But we also want to count every cost, to tally every score. We want to be righteous, justified, praised, admired, valued, needed, important, even vaulted. We count every bean, every accomplishment, and every personal slight.

Our desire for recognition leaves us compromised.

That is "the world."

Yet, also like Simon Peter and other disciples, we have recognized the truth of the One who has come to save us from such a world from within. And Jesus speaks to that person in the text as well.

“You belong to me,” he says in an earlier passage. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in my love.”

Within each of us is the conflicting war of the self. The world that is within us wants to earn its goodness and its power, and Jesus teaches us that goodness can only be given away and received as a gift.

That Jesus—IN HIS PERSON—is the gift, a gift that gives itself away from the start.

Its only cost and, this is key, is letting go of all the rest. Only then can we live out the self-giving pattern of the cross.

Only then will we have a true self to give; a self that is being ever replenished by the inextinguishable sources of all things.

Pouring ourselves out into the world in need may seem futile. But this is the only antidote to the way of the world that continuously and ever-vigorously threatens to consume us.

Seeing that the work of saving “the world” begins within each of us, might be some consolation. We don’t have to have all the answers to all the world’s problems. We don’t have to look for others to hate or to hate us.

The conflict is first INTERNAL. Jesus tells us that the world hates us because it does. That spirit doesn't want to accept what Christ brings.

But yes, even that spirit, clamoring for meaning and purpose and power needs our compassion.

And when we accept our role in winning over the world within us, with the self-giving love of the cross, we will be better prepared to be patient, with insight, and hope to do Christ’s work in the wider world, a world that is quite divided.

It will hate us, but we can then respond not with smug arrogance, but instead with the Way of the Cross. A cross that will cost us in the end, everything, costing us simply to let go of every need to count every cost.

And the work of redeeming the whole kosmos, the whole world, will continue.

The cross, our only hope.

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