John 16: Glory, Part VII – Trouble
Jan Victors: Hannah Giving her son Samuel to the priest Eli
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Today’s lesson on Glory: When we experience God’s glory, barrenness is made fertile, mourning becomes joy, and lack becomes surfeit. We must not avoid the deserts in our lives.
In his last evening with his disciples, Jesus leaves with a warning of persecution and he tells them of how the world will hate him and all that he stands for. Discipleship will be difficult, he says, but there is also good news: a new Comforter will come to them and he himself will rejoin them in a way they have not been able to imagine. He will return from the dead. And he will reveal even more to them than he already has. All of this is too much for them to take in. It is too much for us to take in. Yet these words lay out the premise that we experience God’s glory through the trouble in our lives.
You will weep and mourn but the world will rejoice; you will have pain but your pain will turn into joy.
All of this brings us to a basic truth: the difficulties we experience are more than they seem . . . they are opportunities for joy and an insurmountable interior peace. A mini-reflection from MAGNIFICAT reads: What we formerly perceived as barrenness in our life has become filled with a Presence – the Presence for which we were made. This is in reference to an important story in 1 Samuel 1, the story of Hannah, the barren wife who pleads with God out of her sorrow. Her request is granted and she not only bears her first son who becomes the great prophet Samuel, she bears even more. We are told that Hannah weeps from the bitterness of her soul (1 Samuel 1:10). Peninnah, her husband’s; second wife who is not barren, taunts Hannah about her apparent curse; Hannah persists in her praying. The priest Eli believes her to be drunk (1 Samuel 1:13); yet Hannah continues in her prayer. Then Eli tells her that the Lord will hear her petition and Hannah’s face is no longer downcast (1 Samuel 1:18). She returns home and her grief becomes joy when she conceives and bears this son who is to be an integral part of human history. It is then that she understands how her barrenness has turned into joy – through the work of God’s plan – and she rejoices that she has been able to participate fully in this mystery. She sings a hymn of praise (1 Samuel 2): My heart rejoices in the Lord . . . there is no one like the Lord . . . there is no rock like our God . . . the Lord brings death and he makes alive . . . he brings down to the grave and he raises up. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be shattered . . . He will guard the feet of his saints.
Jesus reminds us of this again today. He says: I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now . . . I have told you so that you might have peace in me. In the world you have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.
When we find ourselves in a barren portion of our lives, we might come back to these stories and these words to remind ourselves that when misery overtakes us and the pain is greater than we can bear, this may well be an indication that we have entered into the very mystery we have sought. This may be evidence that we are fully engaging in our own transformation. It may be the opening to a new Presence, a new beatitude which we otherwise cannot experience . . . if we have not found ourselves in trouble with the world.
Adapted from a reflection written on January 11, 2010.
Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 11 January 2010. Print.
Click on the image above for a post from Ecumenical Women at the United Nations.
Compare various Bible versions of this story and consider when or how our mourning might lead to our joy.
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