17 May 2007 Thursday of the 6th Week of Easter
John 16, 16-20 Birth Pangs
I presume that when some of you come to mass with your missal, you really would like to understand the Scripture — that you do not want to miss a thing from what is being read. But there are passages, even if we have read them clearly, we cannot understand them. Such is the passage from the Gospel of John, “In a little while you will not see me any more; and again in a little while you will see me.” It’s like, “Now you see me. Now you don’t. Now you see me again.”
Whenever people say something, there is a context. May pinanggagalingan. During the time of Jesus, the Jews believed that time is divided into two ages: the present and the future days to come. The transition between these two ages is called the Day of the Lord when the world will experience terrible catastrophes. In other words, the “end of the world” will pave way to a better harmonious world in the future.
Thus Jesus is saying: “Now you see me (in this present world). Now you don’t see me (in the day of the Lord). Now you see me again (in the future age).” As we move ahead, we will experience pain; but our sorrow will soon turn into joy. The Jews called this transition, the “birth pangs of the Messiah” — like a mother who painfully labors to deliver her child. This future image is what we reflect on especially in the time of death. The passage tells those who have experienced joy: this joy will be complete and permanent. This pursuit of this complete and permanent joy makes us forget the pain we go went through to possess this pearl of great price.
These birth pangs are not alien experiences. When we are at present struggling in completing our thesis, the experience is taxing and difficult. But when we are done, the experience of joy is overwhelming, that we forget the pain that went with it. These moments of joy are precious moments, celebrated with special people and punctuated with happy faces.
And if one looks at it in another angle, this is also how we grow. Like a mother who carries her child in her womb, we too carry our dreams within us. Hoping that soon our dreams will come true.