The context for today’s gospel is Holy Thursday, the night before Jesus would be crucified. He was preparing his disciples to be strong, not to give up hope, as they faced the brutal events that would unfold the following day. To do this, Jesus presents his disciples with a rather strange analogy. He speaks about the unbelievable pain a woman experiences in childbirth. However, once she has given birth, she is so consumed by the joy of bringing a new life into the world that she no longer remembers the pain. It vanishes in an instant.
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 John 16:22
Jesus has a way of taking a simple example, and using it to present a universal truth about human life. Our lives will be filled with pain and suffering, that is true, but the pain we experience is never arbitrary, it always has a purpose. For a Christian, suffering always leads to joy. That is the paschal mystery in a nutshell! It is only through the pain of childbirth that a new life can enter the world. It is only through Jesus’ death on a cross, that eternal life could enter the world. The things that are most precious to us, all involved an experience of suffering. If we didn’t suffer for it, then it is not really valuable to us.
This lesson is especially timely for us today, as we are all suffering through this pandemic. We are suffering as individuals, as families, as communities, as a nation and as a world. As a Christian, I look forward with hope to the good that will come out of all this pain and suffering, because the truth that Jesus revealed to his disciples that Thursday night long ago, still holds true…we are in anguish now, but soon our hearts will rejoice and no one will be able to take that joy from us!
+ Deacon Shane