Acts 18:1-8; Psalm 98; John 16:16-20
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples: A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me. The disciples did not understand what Jesus meant so they started to ask each other what Jesus meant. John tells us Jesus knew what they wanted to ask him. In response, Jesus tells them: Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. Instead of comforting them and saying things will be all right, Jesus tells them, they will weep and mourn, they will have pain. Jesus prepares them for the suffering that will come. This is how it is when we act in love: to speak the truth, to prepare people for the suffering to come. Or when they are in the midst of suffering, we say nothing but offer our presence to them.
Instead of telling the disciples nothing is going to happen to him, Jesus tells them: your pain will turn into joy. Pain and suffering are real, whether one is a sinner or a saint. They are a fact of life and if we avoid them, we are not facing reality. But the message of Jesus gives hope: he did not say the pain will go away. He said your pain will turn into joy. There will be a transformation of the suffering into joy. Suffering needs to happen and we need to go through it whether we like it or not. The important thing is it will turn into joy. There will be transformation. The dead body of Jesus was transformed into a body that will never die. It is the same body, but it has been transformed, perfected.
Our sufferings do not define us. It is part of us and it will transform us and perfect us. The Responsorial Psalm today tells us: God has revealed his saving power. God has done marvelous things. God has won the victory. When we apply this to our sufferings, we realize it is through our sufferings that God reveals his power. It is through sufferings God does marvelous things. It is through sufferings that God will win the victory. This is how we are transformed and perfected by God. We may not know why we suffer, but if we trust in the Lord, surrender to him, our pain will turn into joy. Our suffering will turn into victory because God will do marvelous things to us.
We see this in the First Reading where Paul was opposed and reviled in his preaching which forced him to shake the dust off his clothes and preached to the Gentiles. God used this opposition to spread the Gospel to those who do not know him.
The power of God is not seen when things are going right in our lives. Instead, the power of God is seen when things are going wrong, when we suffer, because God told Paul, My grace is sufficient for you, because my power is made perfect in weakness. When we are weak, when we cannot go on, when everything we trust fails us, then we turn to the Lord and surrender to him. And he does great things for us, things we will never imagine.
As some places have started to lift the lock down, and life returns to the new normal, there are many who continue to suffer. Many who have lost their loved ones, their source of income, their dignity, their self-worth. If you are one of them, Jesus tells you your pain will turn to joy. Jesus wants to transform that pain to joy. He may not take it away, but when you call on him, when you surrender your life to him, be assured he is with you all the way and he will not leave you. He wants to show you his power to save. He wants you to see the marvelous work he will do. He wants to lead you to victory in your pain and suffering. Come to Jesus.
Lord, you promised, your pain will turn into joy. I have lost everything. There is no where to turn, no one I can trust, because everyone has failed me. No one can help me. I am in pain Lord. Yet, because you promised, I will believe, this pain, this suffering will turn into joy. This will transform me and I believe, you hear me. I ask you into my life, not because of what I have done, but because you are the only One who can save me. Come Lord, let me see your saving power. Let me see your mighty works. Let me see the victory you have in store for me. The pain will still be here. I will continue to suffer. But Lord, I know you are with me. And your power is made perfect in my weakness.