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THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
(JUBILATE.) Joun 16, 16-23. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me; and again, a little while, and ye shall see me : and, Because I go to the Fatier ? They said therefore, What is this that He saith, A little while ? we cannot tell what He saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask Him, and said unto them, Do you inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow : but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing.
ur text is a portion of those parting words
which Christ addressed to His disciples, while He was seated with them at the table, in the evening before His betrayal by Judas into the hands of the Jews. He wished the disciples to understand their . duty and to regulate their actions accordingly, after their Master would be given over into the hands of Ilis enemies, and therefore tells them that, although they would be sad and would mourn at the event, they should yet be comforted, inasmuch as the separation would not be of long duration, and that they should see Him again in a little while, after. lle had arisen from the dead, and that then their joy would be an everlasting one.
John tells us further how the disciples were puzzled at these expressions of Jesus, for they could not comprehend what He meant by the words “a little while;" nor did they understand their meaning after Christ had explained it to them. The same perplexity controls us in this regard; we cannot rightly apprehend this "little while;" for the very same obstacle which prevented the disciples from understanding these words lies before us and dims our vision.
When tribulation came, and when the disciples saw the horrible and pitiable death of their Master, they could not realize that this was to be but for a little while; they thought that this was the end of their Lord and of His work, and expected nothing else than persecution, suffering and death, even as it had happened to their Master.
They were far from believing that after two days their Lord would arise from the dead to an endless life, and would be their Redeemer from sin, death and hell, and give them finally everlasting life. Hence it happened to them, as St. John elsewhere relates, that on Easter they were gathered together with closed doors for fear of the Jews, and would not at all credit the report of Christ's resurrection, although the women, Peter and the other two disciples had seen Him. They were entirely incredulous as to the little while" of this occurrence; they thought Christ would have to remain in death
other men, and this caused their great sorrow, else they would have cheerfully awaited His resurrection and would thus have been comforted.
We act repeatedly as the disciples do here. As soon as God permits a misfortune to befall us we
despond, and think that there is no remedy nor rescue possible from its weight. We are not prepared to exclaim or believe that, after a little while, God will mercifully and unexpectedly come to our assistance, and are therefore hopeless, fit only for complaint and lamentation. In this we err; for St. Paul says that we ought to rejoice in tribulation and be bold, both on account of the present help, which will surely come if we but believe the Word, and because tribulation is a certain trial by which we may know that we are God's children. Of this we shall treat further on.
Our text is therefore full of comfort, not only for the disciples, but for all Christians. They are exhorted to learn the meaning of the word modicum, which means “a little while,” that they may apply it as a remedy in tribulation, knowing the truth of the comfortable assurance that the troubles shall last but for a little while, after which sorrow will pass away and joy and gladness take its place.
For the purpose of comprehending this consolation the better, we will now speak in general of crosses and sorrows. Our reason assumes that God, if He cared for us and loved us, would ward off all evil from us, whereas now troubles and miseries crowd in upon us from every side; hence the conclusion is that God has either forgotten us, or else He has become our enemy and cares no longer for us; for surely if it were otherwise He would deliver us from our grief and distress. But such thoughts are wicked, and since they are very apt to arise, we must guard against them by applying the Word in true faith, and by following its precepts and not our own thoughts. If we judge our experiences in
daily life aside from the light which the Word of God casts upon them, we shall inevitably become victims of error.
What says the Word in this connection ? Not even a single hair shall fall from our head against the will of God. If we accept this declaration in earnest faith, we will conclude that neither the devil nor the world, no matter how powerful they are, can harm the Christian in the least, if it is not God's will that they should do so. Christ makes this plain in the parable of the sparrows; these are really useless birds, which do more injury than good, and yet not one of them shall fall to the ground and perish unless it be the will of the Father in heaven, Matt. 10. Now, if we have any confidence whatever in the words of Jesus, we must conclude from this that God will certainly concern Himself much rather for men than for many sparrows; He therefore will guard them well and will not permit the devil and the world to harm a single one of His Christians against His will. If troubles do come, we infer that God has first given His consent; for against His knowledge they could not arise. Let us well remember this truth, so that we do not think, when evils surround us, that we are forsaken of God; for He has not forgotten where we are, nor is He ignorant of our condition, though He permits sorrows to invest us.
Another still more dangerous thought arises frequently under such circumstances. prone to say: If the sufferings which we endure are providential, then surely God cannot be our friend; for if He were, He would not permit this misery to visit us, but would ward it off, and make us happy
and prosperous. Then comes the conscience in addition, with its accusations of our sins and misdoings, so that our condition becomes nearly desperate, and we are not far from hatred towards God, and turn away from Him to seek help somewhere else, where we are forbidden to go. We would more patiently bear our misfortune, and would regard it less burdensome, if the devil and wicked men had brought it upon us. Let us, then, hold firmly to God's Word and resist these subtile insinuations and arguments of our natural man; if we do not, we shall either fall victims to despair or become open eneruies of God.
What says God's Word in regard to this ? St. Paul writes, 1 Cor. 11: "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” These words are plain : God chastens and disciplines those whom He would bring into eternal life; they suffer many severe trials of sorrow and of pain, of misfortunes and tribulations, yet God is their friend. Let us not forget these words of the apostle. We all have our griefs and pains, and if we candidly ask ourselves : Had this tribulation not come upon me, would I not have fallen into some other calamity or sin, and is it not better thus, when God by these trials keeps me in faith and brings me to His Word and keeps me at prayer ?--I say, if we candidly look at our experience in this light, we shall surely find that God is not our enemy, even if He smites us, but that He in reality manifests His love toward us, and would by this discipline keep us from eternal misery.