As children, my eight siblings and I would often approach our mother with scratches, cuts and bruises seeking some relief, comfort and reassurance from what we assumed was a terrible pain or malady. My mother was ever attentive and kind but, with nine children, and lots to do at every moment of the day, she was also very practical. Often enough, she would tend our childhood bumps and bruises, reassure us, and then send us off saying, “Don’t worry, honey, you’ll be fine.” As we got a little older, she would continue to reassure us that we would get through whatever it was that was ailing us by adding, “You don’t really know what pain is until you have given birth.”
Jesus uses the image of a mother giving birth to exemplify moving from a place of sorrow, pain and suffering to joy. The context in which Jesus is speaking to his disciples is the last supper. Referring to his coming death, Jesus is acknowledging that when he is no longer with them their pain and loss will be real. But Jesus also wants to reassure them that their pain will turn into joy. Referring to his resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, “But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”
During this Easter Season we have been reflecting on the many ways the Risen Jesus appeared among his disciples. Jesus’ resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit did indeed change everything for his followers and for us. From a frightened, quivering and questioning group, hidden behind the locked doors, they emerged, filled with the Holy Spirit, into the streets and marketplaces throughout Jerusalem preaching the word Jesus had proclaimed. Despite his physical absence from them they sensed his very real presence in their midst.
Their obtuseness and perplexity were transformed into a more certain knowledge and a much-deepened faith in their Lord. Yes, the resurrection of Jesus, his ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, changed their sorrow, and ours, into joy.
Jesus, whose ascension to the right of the Father we celebrated yesterday, brings us into a new relationship with the father. A new way to God has been opened up to us by Jesus. We still walk by faith, but in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we have a glimpse of God and a more complete understanding of the meaning of human existence and the purpose of our lives.
It was the gift of the Spirit that allowed the disciples to get past their many questions, doubts and fears. It was the Spirit that brought the disciples the ability to see, and have contact, with the Risen Christ in their midst, and enabled them to focus on the more important things in life that Jesus had taught them.
Today, with our own questions, doubts and fears, as we await the Feast of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon us, we pray to God for a deeper sharing in the gift of the Holy Spirit and a deeper communion with Christ and the resulting joy we find there.