Today is the Third Sunday after Easter.
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
“You shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice.”–John 16.
When Lucifer, with his followers, rebelled against his Maker, the kingdom of the angels became divided into two parts the good angels, or those who had remained faithful, forming one; the fallen angels, or those who had rebelled, the other. So, too, from the time of our first parents, the human race has in like manner been divided into two classes the faithful, who were called the children of God; and the followers of Cain, called the children of men. These two classes have ever been directly opposed to each other. The children of men seek the goods of this world; the children of God, those of the world to come. The former work for what is temporal, the latter for that which is eternal. The children of this world, on the one hand, following their own will, gratify every desire; while, on the other, the children of God, wishing in all things to accomplish the designs of God, submit cheerfully to every trial, and of their own accord crucify their flesh and its concupiscences.
And if the life of the good Christian differs so much from that of the bad, what, think you, must the difference be in the future that awaits them? The sadness of the children of God will soon be changed into eternal joy; but the joy of the children of the world into sorrow and weeping.
It is to this contrast, my brethren, that I wish to draw your attention today. Mary, obtain for us the grace so to grieve with thee and thy divine Son upon earth as to rejoice with you forever in heaven. I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
“You shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice.” It was for the encouragement of His Apostles that Christ uttered this prophecy. He foresaw the sufferings they would undergo for His name, and it was His wish that trials should not come unexpected, but that they should be well prepared for them. He warned them of tribulations and persecutions, and in their persons He spoke to all Christians who, like them, would have to take up their cross daily and follow their crucified Master.
Yet He wished them to understand that it would be only for a little while, and He said: “A little while, and you shall not see Me; and again a little while, and you shall see Me. I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you.”
“A little while, and you shall see Me.” A little while! “What does it mean?” asked the Apostles.
Be courageous and confident, He seems to say to them; the time of trial will soon pass away, and then I shall be your reward for an eternity. “You shall lament and weep, but the wicked shall rejoice;” but do not, on this account, despond, for the triumph of the wicked shall be short-lived, and the day will presently dawn that will secure for you the reward of all your labors. Truly, two small words, yet how full of instruction and of consolation!
“You shall lament,” said Christ to His Apostles; and, through them, to us also, who glory in being Christians, and who are desirous of imitating their virtues. And ever since the fall of Adam, has not this world been a land of exile to the children of God? To what persecutions have they not been subjected by the children of this world and the powers of darkness? How sad has been their lot on earth, and in what sorrow have they not passed their days!
Were! we to look no further than the present life, our grief, I grant it, would be inconsolable; but as Christians, followers of Christ, holding from on high the precious gift of faith, we must view the cross in the supernatural light of that faith, which teaches us that these sorrows will soon pass away, and a happy eternity succeed them. Now, what is it that causes us most sorrow? Let us examine it closely, and we shall see clearly that all we suffer is permitted by God for His own greater glory, and our future good.
In the first place, it may be that we are poor, or have become so suddenly by what seems to us a caprice of fortune. Here is one who was once wealthy; today he finds it difficult to earn the bread necessary for the support of himself and family. You are sad and oppressed with anxiety, because you see those near and dear to you obliged to suffer from want, or at least deprived of that contentment they once enjoyed. Or again, your honor may have been assailed. You were once courted and esteemed, respected by all. But a day came when calumny stripped you of your good name, to be prized above all riches; and from that time those who, perhaps, had once greeted you from afar, now shunned your very approach. Or you are in grief, it may be, for the loss of your health; formerly, you were strong and active, but you have been stricken down with paralysis, or your lungs are hopelessly gone. Finally, death may have visited a happy home, and taken a beloved wife, a loving and hopeful son or daughter, and you are now alone. Your friends, perhaps your family, have abandoned you, and there is no one to speak a word of consolation to you in your sorrow. And so for some one of these reasons you weep, and feel life a burden.
But how soon is not this sorrow changed into joy when, enlightened by faith, we consider the words of Christ: “A little while, and you shall see Me!”
Why mourn the loss of temporal goods? A Christian should prize what is eternal. What is the world and all its riches compared with heaven and God? And this is the promise made to the poor in spirit, if during this short life they support, for the love of God, whatever affliction it may please Him to send them. Even were the time of life not so short, but like that of Methusala, prolonged to a thousand years, yet, in comparison with eternity, such a life would not deserve to be called a moment.
You have been robbed by calumny of your honor, and you are now an object of contempt and ridicule. But what is honor? Whatever it may be in itself, if by retaining it we should lose heaven, how unworthy of our aspirations would it not become! Are we to prefer the honor bestowed on us by men to that which God has in store for us? Who, my brethren, are they that honor us, and what do they honor in us? They are themselves miserable; sinners, and, perhaps, more worthy of being despised than we are. But who is to say that we are worthy of honor? One thing is certain, if our faults were known to men as they are to God, far from any one honoring us, on the contrary all would despise us.
But we must rise; above the esteem or contempt of men; what they may say or think of us will one day avail us little, if we be not at the same time pleasing in the eyes of God. Moreover, this honor bestowed by man vanishes, while that which will accrue to us by our humility and faithfulness in the service of God will soon develop itself, notwithstanding the contempt of men, into the infinite glory of the blessed, and will remain with us forever.
You have lost your health, and your days are spent in sorrow on that account; but do not lose courage. Man is soon freed from all suffering; a little patience in adversity will sweeten the bitterness of your cup of sorrow, shorten your purgatory in the next life, and furnish countless opportunities of adding new jewels to that crown of glory which you will one day receive. Soon in a little while you shall receive a glorified body. The sufferings of a mortal body must necessarily be of short duration, the joy of a body glorified is never-ending.
And what is death that it should afflict you so much? In reality you never die, for your soul is immortal. Perhaps it is the separation from others which grieves you? Bear it with patience and resignation; soon you will be united in heaven to Christ, and to His Blessed Mother, to the angels and saints, and to those from whom you were separated here below.
Is it not true, then, my brethren, that we have very little reason to complain, whatever be the sufferings we endure? See how transitory they all are; whereas, the cheerful resignation with which we see the will of God perfectly carried out in our regard, will merit for us the glory of a blissful eternity.
With these thoughts ever present to our minds, our life will never be without some consolation; and, even in this world, we shall begin to send up those hallelujahs and hymns of praise which we shall continue to sing for all eternity! Amen! (3)
by Fr. Raphael Frassinetti, 1900
Gospel. John xvi. 16-22. At that time Jesus said to his disciples: A little while, and now you shall not see Me: and again a little while, and you shall see Me: because I go to the Father. Then some of his disciples said one to another: What is this that He saith to us: A little while, and you shall not see Me: and again a little while, and you shall see Me, and because I go to the Father? They said therefore: What is this that He saith, a little while? we know not what He speaketh. And Jesus knew that they had a mind to ask Him, and He said to them: Of this do you inquire among yourselves, because I said: A little while, and you shall not see Me: and again a little while, and you shall see Me? Amen, amen, I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish for joy that a man is born into the world. So also you now indeed have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice: and your joy no man shall take from you.
Our Lord was about to leave this world. The Apostles had received a terrible shock at His disgraceful death, and here was another cause of great grief. When Our Lord was crucified, they were scattered like a flock of frightened sheep, and when they came a little to their senses, they met in an upper room, where no one would look for them. What dreadful news is this He is telling them? “I am going to the Father, and you will see Me no longer.” The world rejoiced when Our Lord was crucified, and at His going away it felt no sorrow. This same thing happens also to the followers of Christ in our time; for a little while they are in great trouble and affliction, as is always the case with every good life in this world. Show me a good man who does not worry and fret over the duties he has to perform, in order to do them well and to the greater glory of God. Soon, however, this sorrow is turned into joy; not only after death, but even in this life, there is many a foretaste of heaven for the good. The wicked try to have a good time in this world; they laugh a great deal, and enjoy everything, but at the end of life this joy becomes a fearful regret. They know that hell is waiting for them. In this life, too, they have hours of unhappiness and despair. Day and night they sin and are happy; their joy may last a few days or a few years, but the day comes when they have to leave this world with all its attachments. You remember that rich man of the Gospel, who had accumulated a great deal of wealth, whose strong boxes were full of money, whose extensive fields yielded a large income; he could not get rid of all, in fact he thought of building storehouses on a larger scale. “My soul, you have many goods; no danger of want, the gold is there in the safe, and can be used at any moment.” What plans he made! He would travel from land to land, he would enjoy ocean voyages, he would get the best of everything, but in his heart he heard a voice whispering, “Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” What startling information that must have been.
The idea often strikes me, though a little vulgar, that rich people are like fattened bulls which are the pride of the farmer; they are carefully tended and carefully fed for some time, but at the end is the slaughter-house. Certainly they are not to be envied. Neither, then, should good people who suffer envy the rich, who are in luck and are happy. It is hard to listen to this, because we have to be persuaded of a thing that human nature does not like. We have a horror of trouble and misfortune, and would put down as crazy any one who would tell us that misfortunes are a happiness. But the life of a sinner is not all sunshine; on the contrary what he thinks happiness is merely the ravings of a drunkard. It is true that there is a certain satisfaction in committing sin, but as soon as this is over, for it is only momentary, we feel a terrible disappointment, because it cannot be enjoyed longer. Yes, the happiness of the sinner is very short, it is frequently false and delusive. His smile hides a most saddened heart; at least it hides a conscience that is continually upbraiding the heart. He hears a voice that tells him heaven is not for men like him.
A certain criminal in Egypt was banished to an island for his crimes. Somehow he there began to realize his wickedness and a terrible fear overcame him; he used to think his throat would be cut in his sleep; then he would jump up, and, rushing out into the starry night, stand there looking at the brilliant heaven, and cry, “Yes, there is a God.” He would recall all his crimes, and at last in fury would exclaim, “Yes, I know that I shall have to be punished for them.” It is true, then, that the wicked do not have all their days bright and happy, and it is good that it should be so. Our Lord afflicts them purposely, strikes them hard while they are in the height of their enjoyment, so that they sometimes come to their senses, and are converted. When the prodigal son was in great distress, he thought of going home to his father’s house. Affliction makes the wicked turn to God, and it is a blessed thing that these visitations are sent them for their eternal welfare. O, my good children! would that God might lay His hands heavily on many young people who have gone astray, in order that they might be reminded of their first instructions. It looks cruel to wish anybody trouble, but to pray to God that a sickness may prove to be a spiritual benefit to the sinner would not be bad, since it is sometimes the only way to correct evil habits.
Have pity on your souls, my dear youthful friends; be not of that unhappy number who repay God’s goodness with black ingratitude. Remember that even were you rich, and gifted with the brightest intellect, if you are in sin you are the most miserable of human beings, you are servants of the devil. What will it profit you if you are rich in money, but poor in the grace and friendship of God? On the other hand, if you are in God’s grace, even though you were a poor beggar, you would not deserve to be called unhappy, because the sufferings which God sends the just are disguised favors. St. Paul tells us this when he says, “I am filled with comfort, I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulations.”
My dear young people, if you are in sorrow repine not, but accept the trials with a holy resignation, remembering that they are sent you by a good Father, who sometimes chastises His beloved to make them more perfect.
The story of Tobias in the Old Testament will illustrate this point. This old man was very dear to God; he practised many acts of charity toward his fellow captives; he saved from his own table all that he could to give to the hungry; he deprived himself of sleep, that in the dead of night he might do what was against the law, that is, bury the dead Hebrews that were slain and left on the roadside. What happened to him? An accident made him blind, and he was reduced to extreme poverty, expressly by God’s permission, as the Scripture tells us, because He loved him so much. We may not be able to embrace with joy the evils we meet with in this world, but at least let us suffer with resignation and thank God for them. Yes, let us thank Him for that poverty which we have to endure, because it detaches us from the comforts of this life and raises us to the contemplation and hope of better things. Yes, let us thank God for the infirmities with which He chastises our body, which looks for nothing but satisfaction. He chastises our body in order to make us hate the false pleasures of the senses.
Yes, let us thank Him that we are not great men, that we are unknown, that we may seek our glory in God alone and our duty in a hidden way, saying with Job, “As it hath pleased the Lord so is it done; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Lord, dost Thou wish me to be struck with sickness? be it so: Thy holy name be blessed. Shouldst Thou wish me to be persecuted with injuries and calumnies, blessed be Thy name in all these things. Thou, O God, dost permit the devil to tempt me with many and frequent temptations that give me much trouble; blessed be Thy name. Only give me the grace to be steadfast in virtue, and to resist them effectually. Lord, as long as I remain faithful to Thee, do with me what Thou wilt. If Thou dost want to put me into the light of Thy consolation, or if Thou dost place me in the school of sorrow; if I be in tribulation or in joy, I accept it all in the knowledge that it is Thy holy will; only preserve me from sin and its punishment, hell. If, my good friends, you are so disposed toward the providence of God you will accumulate many treasures of merit for heaven, and your crown will be a magnificent one. (2)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff