ACTS 18: 9 – 18
[When Paul was in Corinth,] the Lord said to him one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack upon Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading men to worship God contrary to the law.” But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, I should have reason to bear with you, O Jews; but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I refuse to be a judge of these things.” And he drove them from the tribunal. And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to this. After this Paul stayed many days longer, and then took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and with him Priscilla and. Aquila. At Cenchreae he cut his hair, for he had a vow.
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 47: 2 – 3, 4 – 5, 6 – 7 (R.) 8a
R/. God is king of all the earth.
All peoples, clap your hands.
Cry to God with shouts of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome,
the great king over all the earth. R/.
He humbles peoples under us
and nations under our feet.
Our heritage he chose for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. R/.
God goes up with shouts of joy.
The Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
Sing praise for God; sing praise!
Sing praise to our king; sing praise! R/.
Matthew 28: 19a, 20b
Go and make disciples of all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, to the close of the age.
“No one will take your joy from you.”
JOHN 16: 20 – 23a
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: The “Labor Pains” of God’s Will
May 19, 2023
“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.” (John 16:21)
This truth can certainly be extended to any form of anguish we experience for a good reason. Note that the pain experienced in childbirth is pain for a good and holy reason. Therefore, the pain is forgotten, in a sense, when the mother sees and holds her newborn child. That suffering is forgotten in the sense that it is transformed into joy by the birth of a child.
There is much in life that can cause anguish. In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes on to say to His disciples: “So you also are now in anguish.” He says this because He had just finished speaking to them about His coming departure to the Father and about the suffering that they would all experience in the form of persecution. But then He says to them that after He departs and they no longer see Him, they will then see Him again and will rejoice. And He says, “On that day you will not question me about anything.” This is an important line to understand.
Anguish, or any form of suffering, can tempt us to question our lives and even to question God. It is clear that after Jesus was killed, the disciples questioned everything. They were confused and frightened. All appeared to be lost. Then, to a lesser degree, after Jesus ascended into Heaven and prior to Him sending the Holy Spirit, the disciples would have also experienced confusion. Why did Jesus leave them? Why didn’t He stay longer? Who was going to lead them now? These and many other similar questions would have arisen in their minds.
So also with us, when things do not go as planned, or when things take a painful turn in our lives, we can immediately question and even doubt the perfect plan of God. If things fall apart because of our sin, then repentance is the remedy. But if things fall apart, in the sense that life becomes difficult, then we should especially listen to the words of Jesus today.
When anguish in life happens because we are fulfilling God’s will, we must see that anguish as a means to a much greater good. Just as the pains of childbirth lead to the gift of a child, so the pains of bringing forth God’s will in our lives will lead to the presence of God Himself. Patient endurance is a virtue that is especially important in this case. For example, the anguish of overcoming an addiction, or of praying when we don’t feel like praying, or of forgiving someone who hurt us are all examples of anguish turning into blessings. Very often, combatting our own selfish will is difficult. But the fruit of engaging in such a battle within us is joy. There is joy found in victory over sin. Joy is found in persevering in prayer. Joy is found in every difficulty we endure for the Kingdom of God. But the joy is not always our first experience. It is only experienced when we patiently endure the situation.
Reflect, today, upon any form of anguish you are currently enduring for the glory of God, or anything you are currently avoiding because it seems difficult to do. Do not shy away from these difficulties. See them as a means to a glorious end. Endure the “labor pains” of the purification and mission God is calling you to by looking beyond the difficulties you initially experience so that you will see the end result that awaits you.
My glorious Lord, You endured Your passion with perfect virtue. You never wavered from fulfilling the will of the Father, and the fruit of Your perseverance was the glory of the Resurrection. Please help me to patiently endure the crosses in my life and give me hope to see that from them You will bring forth the good fruit of eternal joy. Jesus, I trust in You.