Today’s gospel reading is John 13:16-20. I was struck by the following verse because I don’t think I’d ever read or heard it in the Jerusalem Bible translation:

After he had washed the feet of his disciples, Jesus said to them:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
no servant is greater than his master,
no messenger is greater than the man who sent him.
‘Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly.

What struck me is the word “happiness”. In other translations the word is “blessed.” We will be blessed if we follow Jesus’ example and that means we must imitate the spirit of Jesus’ lifework (Jerome Biblical Commentary).

Now blessed I get — we follow Jesus, we will be blessed. But being “happy” is something different altogether. I wrote about happiness a while back but this verse from John casts the meaning in a new light.

Happiness doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is going as planned or that there is not struggle or tragedy or discomfort. Sometimes (many times) our happiness seems totally dependent on our circumstances and on our relationships. But here Jesus is telling us that our happiness resides in following Jesus, in imitating the spirit with which he went about his own life — humility, simplicity, zeal, kindness, love (even fierce love), faithfulness. The washing of feet is a beautiful example of the spirit of Jesus’ lifework. And to know that Jesus didn’t just do it as an educational moment, but that he genuinely felt happy about what he was doing. That’s something that I think we all want to cultivate in ourselves, a sense of happiness about not only what we are doing but who we are.

What strikes you about this passage on happiness?