Acts 18:9-18; Ps 47:2-7; Jn 16:20-23
The Lord Jesus has been lifted up on the cross, in the resurrection, and yesterday we celebrated the Christ being lifted up to the glory at the right hand of the Father. Even though God is in his heaven, all is not well on the earth. Even though, he brings peoples under us; nations under our feet. Still, we have fears and need dreams; still we have grief and need joy. Even though we have celebrated a full forty days of Easter Joy, still the day is yet ahead of us when we will have no questions, fears, or grieves.
Saint Paul was making many converts in Corinth. From both the local Jewish community and the Gentile community, Saint Paul was bringing new members to new birth into the death and resurrection of Christ. Yet, all was not calm and peaceful in Corinth. Saint Paul was beginning to give birth to enemies as well. Soon, things were too good to be true. Fear grew in Saint Paul’s heart. At his most vulnerable moment the Lord addressed his fear; Saint Paul had a night vision. In his dreaming the Lord Jesus spoke to his frightened Apostle, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking and do not be silenced, for I am wit you. No one will attack you or harm you. There are many of my people in this city.” Saint Paul stayed put for over a year on the courage generated from that word of comfort. Even when the angry mob forced Saint Paul into court, his case was thrown out as not worthy of the proconsul’s consideration. As the Roman authority explained, “since this is a dispute about terminology and titles and your own law, you must see to it yourselves. I refuse to judge such matters.” The fear of persecution gave way to trust in the Lord. Saint Paul grew stronger in his apostolic witness, and when he was good and ready he took leave of he brothers in Corinth and sailed for Syria. With less fear and greater confidence Saint Paul continued to spread the good news and give birth to new Christians.
Saint John uses the image of a woman giving birth to help the early believers understand the time in between—the lifting up of the Lord Jesus and our own being lifted up. Today, we are in a time in between—the Feast of the Ascension and the Feast of Pentecost. Indeed, we are waiting in prayer as the Lord commanded. Waiting for the power from on high. Waiting for a Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. In obedience, we wait, yet, our hearts and minds are bombarded with questions for the Lord of Glory. Who? What? Where? Why? When? How? These simple one-word questions have no easy answers. These unanswered questions cause fear and grief to arise in the hearts of the disciples. Yet, the Lord Jesus promises that, our grief will be turned to joy. Just as the woman forgets the unbearable pain of labor with the joy of birthing, so too, the church forgets the burdens of unanswered and unanswerable questions. We are filled with a joy that no one can take from us. All this happens as the Lord Jesus says when I see you again. He comes to see us when we are the most vulnerable. When we are the least focused on ourselves. When we are caught up in loving service. When we pour ourselves out tenderly for others. As such moments all our questions are mute, and the Lord of Glory sees us. His eyes are filled with tears of joy to see in his children his own image and likeness. We are surprised with such joy at moments of self-abandonment, at moments like the one in which we now find ourselves.