The passage in today’s Gospel reading is toward the end of Christ’s ministry. It’s one of the final times he speaks to his disciples in mysterious language – which at present he does to shelter them from fear and anxiety over what is to come – but he soon speaks to them more plainly about who he is and why he is.

Jesus alludes to his betrayal, his death on the cross, and his resurrection. He talks of his disciples not seeing him for ‘a little while’ and then seeing him again. This is true. Shortly after this passage, Jesus was crucified, buried, and on the third day, he rose again. It was a little while, indeed, before they saw him again. He told them where he would be going after that, to the Father, where they will see him no longer. Because the ruler of this world is judged – here he speaks of atonement. The reason why he had to die on the cross - for our sake and for our salvation. He died for our sins, so that we may die in him, and he rose again for our salvation, so that we may be born again in him.

The mission and the prophecy were about to be fulfilled. God became man incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ to die a mortal death in order to destroy death itself for us so that we may have eternal life in him.

Christ prophesied his ascension, a holy day we will celebrate in a couple of weeks, and he spoke of the reason for his re-joining his Father in Heaven – so that he could send down the Holy Spirit. Here he talks of Pentecost, again, a holy day we will celebrate in a few weeks, marking the end of Eastertide. What is interesting here is that Jesus says he must join the Father so that he can send the Holy Spirit. Like a snippet from the Creed, he tells us that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Adding to that, Jesus said, “all that the Father has is mine”, a couple of glimpses of the Trinity—another spoiler, as we’ll celebrate the holy day of Trinity Sunday a week after Pentecost. As we are starting to see, all of this is connected. It is all divinely instituted, a godly plan.

The reason for sending the Holy Spirit is to reveal all things necessary for their ministry, but also so that they will never be alone. Through his Spirit, God remains with us all our days. Jesus returns to the Father to intercede on our behalf, but he remains with us in his Spirit. For the apostles, after spending time with Christ in the flesh, so to speak, learning from him in the first person, they would be about to lose him in his mortal self and have to develop a relationship with him on a spiritual level. As we know, that is not always easy. But for people who had lived and worked alongside him for so long, it must have been an impossibly difficult concept to imagine. This is why Jesus is brief and slightly elusive when he describes his passion, death and resurrection because he is sparing them the fear and severe loss he knows they are about to experience. They are about to be tested like no one else. He is careful for good cause.

Mirroring our times, Christ said to his apostles, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” This phrase hits hard. When truth is crucified, those who love the world more than they love God will rejoice. We see that every day. When the truth is attacked, the wicked rejoice. But, he goes on, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be changed to joy” That is something we need to remember. As the world seems to burn around us, as Western society implodes, traditional values are cast aside, and civil liberties are stripped from us, as the world mourns, Christians must rejoice because we have hope. No matter how depraved the world around us becomes, we have his promise of eternal joy. This realm might even come to an end, but this is not the end. This is not all there is. There is more, and he came to invite us to participate. We have an invitation to the party, so there is no need for us to be sad, as those who do not have hope are sad. We know the secret, and it is our duty to share it. It is our job to share the good news. That Christ died for our sins, and if we repent and have faith in him, we can share in eternal bliss in his heavenly kingdom.

We have a visual representation of this in the Scriptures. When his enemies tortured, scourged, beat and derided Christ, they celebrated. They yelled, “Crucify him, Crucify him!”. But he defeated them in his death and resurrection when the sorrow of his loved ones turned into joy. He demonstrated his divine power, his godly authority of life and death, and their joy was raised even more.

So whilst, of course, we should be present and try to make this country, this world, as good a place as we can. We cannot let it get us down when we see corruption and wickedness take hold. We are on a journey from here to there. From an earthly disordered mess, to a heavenly kingdom. When we bear that in mind, we can rejoice and allow him to turn our sorrow into joy. As the saying goes, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh.”

Our sorrow is turned into joy. But also, the enemy’s joy is turned into sorrow. He who laughs last, laughs best.

It is also interesting that the birth pangs metaphor is used by Christ, as it was by the prophets. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” The pain endured through childbirth is excessive and a direct result of original sin. But also, we understand that we are born again in Christ because of his death and resurrection to rid us of our sins. The moment the child is born to the mother, she forgets all the pain and rejoices in the miracle of childbirth. The same is true of the apostles; the moment they see Christ again in his resurrected state, they forget their mourning and celebrate his return. This is how we should celebrate when we baptise new members of the Church – of Christ’s body – when people come to know Jesus and are born again in the Holy Spirit; the whole Church is filled with joy. Likewise, when we lose a loved one, we can and should grieve our loss, but we should celebrate them entering the heavenly kingdom, almost like a new birth. This is why we celebrate Saints Days on the day they were martyred, rather than the day they were born, because instead of a funeral, we give them a birthday in celebration of their entry into heaven.

The world right now is in pain. Birth pangs. But labour does not last forever. Sorrow will turn to joy, and death to new life.

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