Everyone has his cross. But we must act in such ways that we be not the bad, but the good thief. - St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Gospel text (Jn 16,20-23a): 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 labor, 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 comforting words of Jesus in this gospel are so helpful to us these days. When he said those words to his disciples he must have known the anguish and struggle they would have to go through in order to be his disciples. He must have known that the cost of challenging the values of the world, as he did, would be severe. I like to think Jesus imagined the martyrs who would come after him, who would need genuine encouragment that their suffering, even their deaths, were not in vain.
Most us live our everyday lives - facing struggles and conflicts - some of which are of our own choosing, but most of which are things out of our control. We live faithful lives, comforted by our Lord, when he reminds us that one day we will enjoy eternal life with him forever.
Two things can help us today. One is to take the time to ask ourselves to what degree we believe the promise Jesus makes us. Too often we walk around as people who don't look like we believe the "Good News" that we will live forever, if only we accept his love and share it with others. Secondly, we need to ask for the grace to believe the comforting words of Jesus more deeply each and every day. If our belief in and longing for eternal life with him and with one another grows in our hearts, then we will be transformed. Imagine how ordinary anxieties, worries and fears would simply melt away. And the big things we face - the loss of a loved one, financial challenges, and a chronic or critical illness would not propose the same sense of loss for us. So much of what troubles us would become a mere scarecrow.
And, if our sense of joy and courage lead to a deep inner peace - knowing and expecting eternal life - then we'd be a lot freer to love the Gospel in our every day life and to proclaim it to the world. We'd be less worried about our own "pocketbook issues" and be more on fire with being advocates for the poor and marginal.
«And no one will take your joy from you» (Jn 16:22) and «your joy will be complete» (Jn 16:24). And in Psalm 126:6: «Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves».