THE TEST OF SUFFERING AND RENEWAL
Jesus was going to pass through his passion and death on the way to the joy of his resurrection. In him, a new risen and glorious life would be born from his sufferings. The disciples would have to pass through the pains of separation from Jesus, and so there came the uncertainty of their faith as it would be violently tested, to give birth to a renewed faith and a new presence of the Lord. Similarly, the Church has to constantly pass through the childbirth of renewal, to return again and again to Christ and to the heart of his Gospel, so as to be more authentically Christ to the world today. Pain is a childbirth, delivery – literally, a liberation – opening the way to new life and joy.
1 Reading: ACTS 18:9-18
One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.” He settled there for a year and a half and taught the word of God among them. But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him to the tribunal, saying, “This man is inducing people to worship God contrary to the law.” When Paul was about to reply, Gallio spoke to the Jews, “If it were a matter of some crime or malicious fraud, I should with reason hear the complaint of you Jews; but since it is a question of arguments over doctrine and titles and your own law, see to it yourselves. I do not wish to be a judge of such matters.” And he drove them away from the tribunal. They all seized Sosthenes, the synagogue official, and beat him in full view of the tribunal. But none of this was of concern to Gallio. Paul remained for quite some time, and after saying farewell to the brothers he sailed for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had shaved his head because he had taken a vow.
Responsorial Psalm 47:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
R. (8a) God is king of all the earth. or: R. Alleluia.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth. R.
He brings people under us;
nations under our feet.
He chooses for us our inheritance,
the glory of Jacob, whom he loves. R.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise. R.
Alleluia LK 24:46, 26
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead,
and so enter into his glory.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel John 16:20-23
Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labour, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”
The church in Corinth was one in which Paul took no small amount of pride, and this, even when taking into consideration the problems present there, is amply seen in the two letters he wrote to this community. In today’s reading, Paul is again beset by his Jewish listeners who bring him before the civil authority, Gallio, who refuses to hear the case being brought against the apostle, seeing it as a purely religious matter.
What is impressive is the equilibrium that Paul maintains in the face of repeated opposition. It is the calm of a man of faith who knows well where the truth lies.
In his Last Supper discourse, Jesus today tells the disciples that their future too will be marked by grief and mourning. But it will not last. Their ultimate joy is compared to that of a woman whose pain in giving birth is converted into happiness at the birth of the child. Certainly the time of Jesus’ suffering and death was a period of disappointment and grief. But his emergence from the tomb marks the dawn of a new era, an era of grace and the Holy Spirit, in which “no one will take your joy from you.” This is the era in which we now live.
The longer we live, the more aware we are that pain and suffering are a prominent part of many people’s lives. We marvel at the fact that just when things seem to be on an even keel, sadness strikes in some unforeseen way. It is at moments like that that we must be convinced that our Spirit life enables us to cope. In faith we shall persevere and our joy will not be taken from us. As the psalmist says today:
“Sing praises to God, sing praise;
sing praises to our king, sing praises.”
We have the assurance of Jesus that if we ask anything from the Father in his name, he will give it. If we have enough faith, we would never doubt or worry. May God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!