“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” (John 16: 20)
We just cannot take short cuts. To get to the cake and ice cream we have to eat some spinach first. In the Gospel, Jesus explains to the disciples that the reality of being a believer/follower means that we have to embrace suffering. We have to embrace suffering even if the world around us “rejoices” or at least carries on as if nothing wrong is happening. To believe in Jesus, to believe in his teachings, healing works and miracles and then live all of that out will put us at odds with the normal world in which we live and work. As one person who founded another major religion stated, “Life is suffering.”
The good thing is that the suffering is not the end in itself. Suffering is not endured for its own sake. It leads to something else, and I am not going to sink into clichés about our rewards in heaven. Suffering leads to something good in this life. Paul experienced exactly that in the first reading. He was put in front of a local Roman authority for doing what God called him to do: preaching the Good News and being prophetic. Paul obviously did not preach on comfortable content. He stirred people up and made some powerful people mad at him. Paul did not take a short cut to his comfort zone.
Paul could have avoided the sticky issues and preached easy content. He would have avoided angry local authorities and Roman governors. He could have been comfortable. However, that comfort could be easily stolen away, and it has no lasting joy—the joy that the Savior promises in the Gospel, joy that nobody can take from us. If Paul would have skipped all of the hard stuff, what little comfort he would have experience would be gone in time or stolen by something or someone else.
So—hey, don’t skip the spinach.
Br. Brian Boyle, C.PP.S.