Acts 18:9-18; Psalm 47; John 16:20-23
The Gospel today overlaps from yesterday’s Gospel and Jesus continues to speak about mourning and pain. We will suffer and no one is immune to it. Some ask: Why am I suffering when I have done nothing wrong. Yet, when we look at Jesus and our Blessed Mother, they suffer even if they have not sinned. Suffering is part of our human existence. It is the consequence of a broken world and as long as we live in this side of heaven, we will suffer! And Jesus acknowledges that suffering is painful. He compares this to a woman in labor. Yet, when the child is born, what is left are the scars, but the pain is forgotten and there is joy of having what she waited for present.
Jesus finally says: so you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. We suffer because there is something that is not according to our desires. Jesus tells us what the deepest desire is: to have Jesus see us again. God created us for love which is why we crave for love, for something that satisfies us. But because of original sin, our perspective of good and evil clouds our vision so we think this craving for love is satisfied by things: drugs, alcohol, sex, even people. Yet, these cannot and will not satisfy. All these things do is give us temporary relief and in the process suck the life out of us, because they cannot give life. Only God can empty himself and still remain full because he is the source of eternal life!
Which is why Jesus said, I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you. Joy happens not when we see Jesus, BUT when he sees us AGAIN! While Jesus sees us since he is God, he will see us when we come to him. We have joy when we come to Jesus because he is our Joy. But what is joy? It is definitely NOT laughing. It is also not just happiness. These are fleeting. When we want to know something about life, we look at Jesus on the Cross. We cannot say Jesus was happy and laughing at the Cross because he was suffering. YET, we know he had joy because he knows he is most united with his Father while he was dying on the Cross.
Joy is confidence in knowing we are one with the Father. It is not the absence of pain. It is not the absence of suffering, but it comes a certainty of one’s union with God. This is why the early Christians went to their deaths with joy, because they know Jesus sees them, because they come to him. This certainty of their union with God gives them courage to face whatever they face, even death.
This is the confidence Paul had in the First Reading where he continued to teach the word of God among the people in Corinth because of a vision from the Lord commanding him not to be afraid and assuring him nothing will happen to him. And God proved faithful that despite the threats from his enemies, Paul was not harmed. This is what gives us confidence to do what the Responsorial Psalm tells us: clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs. For the Lord, the Most High is awesome, a great king over the earth. Our confidence is in God alone in the midst of our suffering. He is our Joy and he wants to give us this joy. But it is our choice. Do I want to receive this joy? If I do, I need to come to Jesus. Sufferings come to our lives. The question is: do I want to suffer alone, or do I want to suffer with God at my side? The word paraclete which refers to the Holy Spirit literally means to call aside. The Holy Spirit calls us to his side. We can also call him to our side, to defend us, to protect us, to lead us to Jesus. God is faithful that when we call him to our side, he will come. When he comes, Jesus will see us and we will have joy that no one can take from us.
Lord, I come in the midst of my suffering and struggles. I want the joy you give. Yet, I waver, because of fear, because of arrogance, because of shame or guilt. I do not know how I can come to you, and I know you understand. Let me hear you call me to your side, so I can come to you and you can see me. Look at me Lord, in my brokenness, in my shame, in my guilt this is all I can give to you. Yet I know, you can heal me. Take me Lord and restore to me the joy of your salvation. Save me Lord.