Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Today's Memorial: Saint Athanasius

Today's Readings:
Acts 18:9-18
Ps 47:8a, 2-7
John 16:20-23

Turning grief into joy

In today's Gospel reading, Jesus tells us: "Poor dear, it's going to be hard for you. You'll weep and mourn while the worldly people around you rejoice in the sins that have caused problems for you. BUT your grief will turn to joy! Your sufferings are like labor pains: Something new and wonderful will come from them."

And then he says, "I assure you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you."

Have you ever prayed for an end to the sufferings that are causing you to weep and mourn? And have you asked him to hurry up with that joy that he promised? But the sufferings continue, and sometimes they even intensify!

I've recently endured a decade of multiple, simultaneous, heartbreaking situations that were well covered in prayer. Most of this is behind me now, but if God had done what I had asked him to do at the start, some of the problems that further developed could have been prevented. Hello Jesus? What happened?

He pats me on the head saying, "You poor, dear child. Didn't you entrust these matters to the Father? When it seems like your prayers are not being answered, it's because we're working on a plan that's better than what you can imagine."

In today's first reading, the Lord told Paul: "Don't be afraid. Go on speaking. Go on doing what I called you to do, for I am with you. No one will attack you, because I have many followers in this city." Other times in other places, Paul WAS attacked, imprisoned and eventually executed. The life of a servant of God is never easy and certainly not "safe" (according to our definition of "safe"). An easy life was not the best solution to Paul's problems. God answered his prayers by ensuring that his ministry would continue NO MATTER WHAT. And Paul's ministry still continues today.

Nothing can permanently interfere with God's plans and purposes. The delay in putting an end to our grief is not proof that destructive forces are conquering God. Nor is it due to an uncaring attitude of God. He uses it all — the good and the bad, the angels and the demons, the easy-going days and the hard times — to bring salvation to untold numbers of people. That's what happened on Good Friday when Satan thought he had defeated Jesus.

Your joy is coming. In fact, joy begins now with realizing the truth of this! The Father IS answering your prayers, not in the way you expect but better than you can imagine. Your sufferings are labor pains indicating that something new, something wonderful, something beyond your dreams is being born. As you wait for the birth, you do well to prepare for it by learning everything you can from the present moment.


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