Homily for May 6th, 2016: John 16:20-23.
“You will weep and mourn,” Jesus says, “while the world rejoices.” In both halves of this statement Jesus is telling his friends what will happen at his impending death. That his friends will weep and mourn is obvious. But why will the world rejoice at Jesus’ death? Because the One whose whole life and words were a rebuke to all who live for themselves, and not for God and others, is no longer there to make them uncomfortable.
In his resurrection, however, this pattern of grief and joy will be reversed. Now it is “the world” which will grieve. “The world” in John’s gospel refers to those who organize their lives without reference to God and against God, experiencing in consequence emptiness, frustration, and loneliness. Mother Teresa, soon to be St. Teresa of
used to say: “Loneliness is the greatest suffering today: being unloved, just
having no one.” The only one who can completely remove this loneliness is God.
For those who reject God, therefore, and live as if he did not exist,
loneliness remains, and with it the grief of which Jesus speaks here. Calcutta
“But I will see you again,” Jesus says, “and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” Jesus is referring not merely to his resurrection appearances, which were few, brief, and transitory. He is speaking about his sending of what is called, variously, the Comforter, Paraclete, or Advocate – in other words, the Holy Spirit. Following his return to heaven Jesus is present with us now through his Spirit, available to all, at all times, throughout the whole world. This explains why Jesus said earlier in this sixteenth chapter of John’s gospel: “It is expedient for you that I go away. If I fail to go the Paraclete will never come to you, whereas if I go, I will send him to you” (vs. 7).
Those filled with the Spirit are so united to Jesus that their prayers in his name will be in accord with his Father’s will, and so can be granted. Jesus is not speaking just about prayer for our everyday needs. His words about asking in his name refer to asking for whatever will deepen the eternal life for which we are destined, and make fruitful the Spirit’s work.
How better can we respond to today’s gospel than by praying the age-old and powerful prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus!”