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Posts Tagged ‘Second Coming’

“I THANK my God upon every remembrance of you”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

 

“Our Highest Calling”

St. Paul dearly loved the Church at Philippi, and today’s Epistle lesson shows it.  The prayer and rejoicing which shine forth in these verses set the tone for the entire epistle.  Let’s take a closer look at it.

 

 

“I THANK my God upon every remembrance of you “

“I thank” is the same root as Eucharist, actually eucharisto here.  He thanks God for his remembrance of them.  They have supported him in his mission amongst the Gentiles.  St. Paul is grateful for them.

St. Paul loved all of the Philippians and cared for them all, even though he had words of warning for some of them.  He could criticize them, indeed he was obligated by his office as apostle to admonish them, but that in no way diminished his love for them.  God loves us all, regardless of whether or not we deserve his love.  That’s the way that the love of God is – it is never earned, only given – and received.  St. Paul knew this personally, for he had been a persecutor of the Church and was complicit in the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

 

 

“always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,”

Here St. Paul mentions prayer twice, once with the word prayer and also in “making request”.  He writes, “for you all” praying for all of the Philippians, not just the elite or saints, including those who are difficult, the ones he will later chastise.

This prayer for each other builds what they already have between them and is a result of the love they have between them.  The relationship of prayer with those who are joined in Christ is never simple and one-directional.  They are bound in prayer for each other to God as they are bound together in Christ’s love.

“With joy” opens one of the important themes of the epistle.  He prays for them with joy.  In Ephesians, he writes so much of love.  Here in Philippians, he writes wrapped in joy.  He wrote in Galatians v.22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,” and so on.  As John Wesley said, “Joy peculiarly enlivens prayer.”

 

 

“for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;”

One reason for St. Paul’s joy is fellowship, or in Greek, koinonia.  In Christian terms, fellowship is more than association.  It is an evocative word, summoning meanings of emotion and practicality.  The Gospel brings all Christians into a relationship of responsibility for each other.

In this particular situation, the Philippians have shared responsibility with St. Paul for his missions.  The Philippians have looked after St. Paul – and he after them – with care, joy, thanksgiving, and prayer.  They have a past together, but they also have a future together.  He was genuinely thankful for the Philippians’ participation in his ministry.  For truly the ministry is neither yours or mine but His – Christ’s.  They shared in His ministry together.

 

 

“being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

God, by his grace, has begun a good work in them which he will bring to perfection.  What God begins, he sees through to the end; the end of God’s work is perfection, or it is not God’s work at all.  The “day of Jesus Christ” is the day of Christ’s Second Coming.  This is when the worship of Him by the entire cosmos in ii.10-11 will manifestly become a reality.  When Christ returns, we will then see

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

 

“even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”

“To think this” is not just the stuff of intellect, but to judge or to hold an opinion; to have an attitude toward something.  To “have you in my heart” speaks to the deep emotional bond St. Paul has with the Philippians.  The heart is not just seat of emotions but center of a person.

St. Paul is explaining to them why he loves them and feels so close to them.  He himself is preparing for trial in Rome, and is probably using evidence and trial terms in this epistle.  They have helped him afford to travel and preach.  They have operated together, if even not in the same place always.  He longs for them, and he prays for them.

 

 

“For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.”

Like in a trial, St. Paul swears under oath – as God is my record.  He eagerly desires to be with them.  He longs after them and yearns for them.  He uses the words tender mercies for compassion, which means guts.  An old way of saying this is “bowels of mercy”.  And these are not St. Paul’s tender mercies, but Christ’s.  He loves them, but it is not his own tenderness which he has towards them, but the tenderness of Christ Himself.

Remember that we, you and me, are no longer simply our own persons but are united to Christ as members of His Body.  The love we have for one another shares in the love Christ has for each of us.  That is to say, I love you with the love Christ loves you.  That love is much better and more perfect and complete than my own impaired, imperfect, and limited love.  As Christians, we love each other with the infinite love of Christ Himself.  This is the love of God which can work miracles.  This is what we have right here together in this parish.

 

 

“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;”

He begins by writing of “your love”, the loving-kindness which the Philippians have with each other, their mutual love which is the reflection of the love of God.  He prays that this love of God which they have for each other “may abound yet more and more”!  He wishes above all things, so much so that he goes to the Lord in prayer to intercede on their behalf, that the Christian self-sacrificial loving-kindness which they have for one another would continue to increase to maturity.

To this unquenchable fire of divine love he then follows “in knowledge and in all judgment” – this is the fruit of the love.  And why do they need this knowledge and judgment?

 

 

“that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;”

The word “approve” here means to discern or prove.  This is not a nod of the head.  This is a searching understanding for that which is spiritually solid and excellent.  He asks for an increase of love for right judgment so to approve only the best things.  And why?

“That ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ”  Sincere here literally means, “tested by sunlight”, like holding up jars of jelly or glasses of wine.  “Without offence” means “without stumbling”, or without offense, such as in 1 Corinthians x.32:  “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:”  The “day of Christ” is the parousia, which is the Second Coming of Christ.  St. Paul often mentions this as a way to remind the churches to prepare for this day, which of course is a day which we should prepare for as well.

What a wonderful prayer!  We could not ask God for something more wonderful for each other.  Loving-kindness, spiritual knowledge, discernment of excellence, all effective to ensure that they be judged by Christ on the last day to be blameless.

 

 

“being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”

This “being filled with the fruits of righteousness” means completed, brought to maturity, and perfected.  Being morally and spiritually perfected and brought to maturity gives rise to the “fruits of righteousness”.  This term is from the Old Testament.  Righteousness means being right with God.

The reading concludes with “the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”  We do not repair our relationship with God through our own effort.  Christ completes us and our relationship with Him.  The fruits of righteousness are by Christ, are from outside of ourselves.  We are the recipients of the fruits of righteousness as we are recipients of the fruits of the orange tree.  The tree makes the fruit, and we receive and eat the fruit.

The righteousness of the Philippians is from Christ, and to Christ St. Paul gives thanks and praise, for he loves them, and he loves Him Who saved them and is perfecting them in love and righteousness.  His love of them brings him to thank God.  His love of these wonderful people brings him to love God even more.

Here is where the unity of the Two Great Commandments which I recited earlier this Mass comes from.  The love of God and the love of neighbor are essentially one movement of love, one gracious outpouring, one cycle building up one, then the other, and then the one again.  The love of God shows us to love our neighbor, and the love of neighbor lets us give thanks for God’s love.

 

 

Because we are members one with another with our fellow Christians, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves even when our neighbors are not Christian, not our friends, and not our family.  We are to enter into personal loving relationships with our neighbors because we are followers of Christ whom He has redeemed and made righteous.  Christ’s calling is the highest calling in the entire world, the whole cosmos.  In the entirety of our lives, there is nothing we can do that is as important as loving the Lord our God with our whole selves and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

 

 

“I THANK my God upon every remembrance of you”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

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“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Death

 

There are three ways that we can meet the end of our mortal life here on this earth.  From most likely to happen to least are:  Our death, Christ’s return, or direct entry to Heaven like Enoch, Elijah, and St. Mary.

In Genesis v.24 we read:  “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”

Not to spoil Naomi’s Sunday School, but in II Kings ii.11 we read:  “behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”  Elijah did not die, but he was taken up into heaven.

According to the non-Scriptural but goodly understanding of the early Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary did not die and meet corruption on earth but was assumed directly into Heaven.

So we know that we can be taken into heaven without dying, but we have only two Scriptural and one post-Scriptural examples of this.  We had better not count on God ‘miracleing’ us off of the earth.

We also know that the Lord will return one day to judge the quick – or living – and the dead.  This is known as the Second Coming.  This first day of that holy season, we may think of this as Christ’s Second Advent.

As Isaiah says in the thirteenth chapter, “the day of the Lord is at hand” and “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh”.  As Christ says in the Gospel according to St. Matthew about the five wise and five foolish virgins, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”  As St. Paul says in I Thessalonians:  “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

But we still wait for Christ’s Second Advent.  We do not know when it will be; only that it will be.  Until then, we are left with only one expectation of how we shall meet our end here on earth:  Our death.

Death is an unnatural state brought upon by Man’s Fall into sin. 

In the third chapter of Genesis we read words familiar from our Ash Wednesday service:  “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”  Due to sin entering into the lives of the ancestors of our human race, Adam and Eve, we suffer a debilitating separation from God, who is the only source of goodness, holiness, health, and life.  Therefore, we labor under the conditions of wickedness, disease, and death.

Death is necessarily related to sin.  Sin brought death into the world of men.  Only by addressing sin can we effectively address death.  We must understand that the cancer that killed my father twenty-four years ago is related to the sin I committed yesterday, as well as to the slaughter of the Holy Innocents by King Herod, and is only effectively met by the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

We cannot meet death on death’s terms without losing.  On death’s terms, we will suffer violence at the hands of other people, sickness and deterioration at the hands of disease, and will die eternally separated from God in Hell forever.  That is what death is.  Death is a metaphysical sickness which medicine and clean living can at most delay.  Death is our end without God.

Therefore, we must appeal to God to assist us with our death.  We must prepare for death.

Momento mori.  In Latin, that means, “Remember that you will die.”  Every day we must be mindful of death if we are to prepare for death.  We have heard that we ought to live each day as if it would be our last.  We should not take this to mean that we ought not to plan ahead, but rather that we firmly understand that our time is the Lord’s, and he will give us what he wants, not what we think we need.  We must always be mindful of our coming death.  Have you heard the Coast Guard’s motto?  Semper Paratus, which means Always ready.  Do you remember that Scout motto?  Be prepared.  To be ready for our death, we must be prepared.

Part of preparing for our death is to make provision for the disposition of our earthly substance.  We ought to have our financial things in order for those who will dispose of our estate.  We ought to leave our valuables where our loved ones can find them.  Importantly, we ought to leave plans for what type of funeral we are to have.  As a parishioner here at St. Luke, you are absolutely entitled to a Prayer Book funeral, a Prayer Book committal, and a requiem Mass.  These are free of charge.  You may choose one, two, or all three of them.  But you really ought to consult with me about them, write down what you want, and keep those instructions in a place your loved ones can find immediately upon your death.

But that is simply the beginning of our preparations for death.  We must also provide for those who are dependent upon us.  We must leave instructions on who should care for our minor children, an infirm parent, and any household pets we might have.  Your dog or cat will still need fresh water the day of your death.

We ought also to provide for the distribution of our worldly wealth.  Our families should be provided for.  We ought to heed the Book of Common Prayer in the Visitation of the Sick, where it enjoins the priest “to advise the People, whilst they are in health, to make Wills arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, and, when of ability, to leave Bequests for religious and charitable uses.”

Unclear wishes about the disposition of your property often lead to courts, and courts tend to disrupt the harmony of families.  Far better to prepare ahead of time than to leave confusion and bitterness in your wake.  Also important is to leave bequests for scholarships, good works, and parish support.  Our parish is currently operating under a tremendous financial difficulty which is only bearable for a while due to the generosity of dead parishioners and their bequests.

Another important part of preparing for our death is shaping our legacy while we are alive.  We buried a fine man this past week, Francis “Mac” MacDonald.  Mac and his wife Gini left behind a formidable legacy of generosity, hard work, diligent governance, and loving-kindness.  Any Christian should be honored to walk in their paths.  But each of us walks his own path.  You will leave behind a legacy.  What will people say about you?

The final and most important part of preparing for our death is preparing our soul to meet her maker and redeemer.  As best we can tell from Holy Scripture and the teachings of Holy Church, we will be judged initially upon our death and then finally upon Christ’s Second Coming.  What will He say to you?

If we trust in, if we depend upon, if we rely upon ourselves, our wealth, our ideology, or anything other than Christ, we probably won’t like what He has to say to us on that Last Great Day.  There is no one who can defeat death other than Christ.  There is no one who loves us enough to interpose Himself between us and death than Christ.  There is no solution to the problem of death other than Christ.

Christ came to us on Christmas morning to save us from death.  Through sin, death entered into the world of men.  Starting with Abel and lasting through this very moment, we men have died the death of this world.  Little babies die in the womb.  Old women die in their beds.  Young men die in combat.  Old men die in the hospital.  We die.

But God has intervened in our situation.  We need not die like those without hope.  God the Father sent God the Son into the world as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  And He conquered death.  But He conquered death in a most interesting way:  Christ conquered death by dying Himself.  This apparently gave Satan and sin and death the victory.  But no!  Christ rose from the grave and killed death itself.  No mythic hero of ancient literature accomplished such a feat!  Christ died, defeating death by dying Himself and Resurrecting.

We who live in Him participate in the victory which He won without our assistance.  When we join in His holy Body the Church, we too will experience Resurrection on that Last Great Day.

The ignorant of our society claim that Christians wish ill on the world by praying and hoping for Christ’s Second Coming.  This is foolishness.  We Christians pray and hope for Christ to come again soon so that death may be overcome all the sooner.  We know that it will mean that we will face Christ as judge in the Last Judgement, but we so eagerly seek for death to be done for forever.

As we reflect upon our own deaths and the deaths of our loved ones, let us put on Christ our Lord and put to death our sins.

 

“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

One hundred sixty nine years ago, something strange happened.  A former Army captain who had spent many years studying the Scriptures by his lonesome supposed that he had figured out the year of Christ’s return.  He spent five years checking his interpretation and math.

Immediately upon publishing his news near and far, many flocked to him to hear how he had done it.  Amazingly, the year predicted was only a few years away.  Many of those flocking around him started figuring out the numbers for themselves, and one prediction became quite prominent:  The Lord Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.  March 21, 1844 rolled around and the Lord had not returned.  Again, heads were put together and figures were added with a new date, April 18th, not March 21st.  April 18th rolled around, and still our Lord had not returned.

The followers of the man were puzzled.  Then a new man arose at a camp meeting and claimed that he knew when Christ really really was coming back:  October 22nd, 1844.  October 22nd rolled around with the predictable results.  I suppose the third time was the charm, because this time the man Miller’s followers were devastated in what became known as The Great Disappointment.  One wrote:  “Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before… We wept, and wept, till the day dawn.”

Most of Miller’s followers, called Millerites, drifted away from the man and the movement.  But some clung tenaciously on.

Captain Miller was a false prophet.  He and his other leaders claimed to bring to the faithful the coming of Christ, but they did not.  Denominations have arisen from Miller’s disciples, and they are still soft on Christ’s Second Coming.

Most everybody has some bad apples in their church family tree.  Our own Henry VIII separated the Church of England from the Church of Rome in order to get a divorce – a bad reason – as well as some better reasons.  Certainly the Churches of Rome and the East have had atrocious bishops before.  But these three Churches are essential apostolic and catholic in nature.  Miller’s descendants, the Seventh-Day Adventists, struggle to lead people into the proper worship of Christ partially because of distortions in their understanding of the Second Coming of Christ.

We are not to be swayed by false teachers who come to us with signs and wonders.  Simon Magus in the Acts of the Apostles (viii.9) showed false signs to people which they were not to believe.

St. Paul tells us in Galatians i.8:  “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”  Think of that:  Even if an angel comes with new doctrine, we ought to hold fast to those things found in Scripture and taught in the Church.  Some will be tested and led astray by false teachers; “they shall deceive the very elect”.  We ought to firmly hold on to the apostle’s teaching and preaching and shun strange doctrines.

We simply do not know when Christ will return.  Those who claim to know are trying to disturb Christ’s faithful, and this is the act of antichrist and false prophets.  They will be seductive, showing signs and wonders.  They will be destructive, deceiving the very elect.  Resist them as you would the devil himself.  Live each day as if it is your last.  One day, either death will come for you or Christ will return “with power and great glory”.  At that time, the faithful in Christ will be gathered by His holy angels.

But just because false prophets claim to know when Christ will return does not mean that we should commit the opposite error of thinking that Christ is not coming.  Right here in today’s Gospel, Christ tells us that He is.  So first, we must not follow false teachers and get disturbed by claims that Christ is coming on a particular date.  And second, we must not follow doubters and get disturbed into thinking that Christ will not return.  He will return, and we do not know when.

 

Angela and I have seen heat lightning on our long commute on I-20 many a time.  But the first time I recall ever truly paying attention to it was years ago.  I was in a field in central Florida on a warm night in the middle of summer.  The lightning started up and I had to turn my head to catch it as it raced from one side of the sky across to the other.  I was amazed.  So much light arcing across without a storm dazzled me.

But I have also sat through some powerful storms out in Greene County, when the whole sky erupts from darkness and lights up.  You could almost feel the electricity in the air.

I wonder what it will look like when He comes again.  Christ says in today’s Gospel:  “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

Regardless of what kind of lightning Christ’s return will be like, His return will be visible to all and universal to all.  Like lightning, the burst of Christ before the world shall make bright all the dark places.  Lies will be exposed, hidden places made open, and darkness made light.

We do not have to wonder when Christ will return.  When He returns, we will notice.

 

What will happen when He returns?  “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

“His angels” and “His elect” refer to the angels of Heaven and the saved of Earth, the two sets of folks who will live with Christ forever.  Christ’s coming again will unite together all those who are already mystically united in Christ.  The time of trial and tribulation will be over.  Then will we reap the reward.  We have the promise now.  We will have the fullness of the actuality of it then.  Between now and then is a time of hope, and we have God’s promise that this hope will be fulfilled.

We ought to believe that as Christ came a first time, He will come again.  As He saved us with His first advent, so will He fulfill our salvation with His second advent.  But we aren’t to be wrapped up in speculating what that will be like, for if we spend our time doing that, we find ourselves in two traps.  First, the more we speculate, the easier we are for others to convince us, or for ourselves to convince us, that these speculations are instead fact.  That was Miller’s problem.  Second, the more we speculate, the less we pay attention to living our lives after the example of Christ.

George Buttrick wrote, “The crucial task for the disciples, as all the Gospels emphasize, is to seek the dignity and honor of the Messiah in the circumstances of humiliation and apparent defeat.”  We should not be so distracted by His coming in glory that we lose focus on the Christ Who has already come and Who has been with us and showing us the way.  We must prepare for His judgement by living in His humiliation and Resurrection.  For in Christ’s weakness, does He conquer, in His brokenness, does He redeem, and by His stripes, we are healed.

Thus, the major motif of all this is preparation.  We do not know when Christ will come again, only that He will come again.  We had best be prepared when He gets here.  (Of course, we might die before He arrives again, and thus we had best be prepared for our death.)

We live in expectation.  We live in hope:  Hope for Christ’s return.  Christ has saved us, and He will return shortly to gather us up to be with Him forever.

So let us live in hope.  Let us prepare to meet our God.  Let us never give in to despair or think that we are alone – we should let our hope increase our faith and loving-kindness.  We are never to give up but with hard work prepare ourselves, with God’s help, to meet Christ when He returns.

 

“Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“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.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Here are verses 16 through 19 of the Gospel lesson:  “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 Father?  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 ye 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?”

There are three ways to interpret all these iterations “ye shall not see me” and “ye shall see me”.

First, some interpret this to mean that while Christ was dead, the disciples could not see Him, but they would see Him after His Resurrection.  Today’s lesson comes from the part of St. John’s Gospel which we call the Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper.  That is, this lesson comes right before Christ’s Crucifixion.

St. Augustine of Hippo held another way to interpret this.  After His Ascension, the disciples will not see Christ, but that after their deaths, they shall see Him in Heaven.

A third way, taken by many saints, interprets this recurring phrase to reference Christ’s Second Coming.  So the first “little while” is the time after Christ’s Ascension, and the second “little while” is until Christ’s return in glory.  The disciples could behold Christ with their eyes until He ascended into Heaven, thereby preparing a place for us, but removing Him from our sight.  And since we know that Christ will come again, we know that we shall all see Him then.

Like the Nicene Creed says:  “And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead;”

And lest we think that Christ’s saying “a little while” excludes the possibility of thousands of years passing from His Ascension to His Second Coming, let us consider the words of the Psalmist:  (xc.4):  “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, * and as a watch in the night.”  We do not experience time the same way God does.  “A little while” might mean a few minutes or a few days, or it might mean until the end of the age.

 

(Verse 20)  The next verse merits closer attention:  “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.”

The disciples sorrowed when their Lord died, and they rejoiced after His Resurrection.  The world (those enemies of Christ who put Him to death) rejoiced when He died, while the disciples were sorrowing.  The experience of those faithful in Christ will be different from the experience of the world around us.

And this is something all believers should keep in mind when we push forward and strive through the tears and afflictions of the present in order to reach forward and grasp the joys eternal.  We have a promise:  “but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  No matter how bad life gets here on earth for the Christian, there are joys waiting for us in Heaven.  No matter what physical pain, what family conflict, what financial poverty, what oppression by the world, the flesh, and the devil, Christians will meet relief and joy when we pass on to Christ.

Therefore, we should weep for the world, we should weep for those who do not know Christ, and we should diligently study our faith, practice our faith, and share our faith with others.  The world has no hope of joys to come for all its delight is in the present hour.  This is all they have.  Only in Christ can we find eternal joy.

We must pass through the veil of sorrow to enter into the joy to come, like we must pass through the veil of Christ’s flesh in order to gain access to the Holy of Holies in Heaven.

This travail we experience is out entryway into life everlasting.  We must suffer the agonies of death so that we may live in the peace and goodness of Christ forevermore.

Why must we suffer so that we may have joy?  Why must we die so that we may live?  Remember the words of St. Paul in First Corinthians (xv.36):  “that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:”  In this world broken by the Fall, to pass on to life, one must first go through death.

All this talk of suffering and travail leads us to the next verse.

 

Verse 21:  “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.”

St. Alcuin of York wrote:  “The woman is the holy Church, who is fruitful in good works, and brings forth spiritual children to God.  This woman, while she brings forth, i.e. while she is making her progress in the world, amidst temptations and afflictions, has sorrow because her hour is come….”

Indeed, Christ says “for joy that a man is born into the world”, not “a boy” or “a child”, but “a man”.  That woman in travail is a figure of the Church, who is the Bride of Christ, our own mother, who brings forth spiritual children for God.

The Venerable Bede complements this understanding of the woman in travail being Holy Mother Church and the man who is born into the world being us:  “Nor should it appear strange, if one who departs from this life is said to be born.  For as a man is said to be born when he comes out of his mother’s womb into the light of day, so may he be said to be born who from out of the prison of the body, is raised to the light eternal.  Whence the festivals of the saints, which are the days on which they died, are called their birthdays.”

We are born to eternal life; then shall we see Christ and be glad.

 

The last verse (22):  “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.”

The disciples who were with Christ in the body were to miss Him, and then they would come to see Him again.  They would “weep and lament”, but then their “sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  They would undergo the travail of sadness before joy which “no man taketh from you.”  As we read in Psalm xxx (v. 5):  “heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

We must trust in Christ.  We will see Him face-to-face on that last great day, the day of doom; each one of us; you can count on it.  He gave His life for us, and He will judge us.  We must resolutely follow Him through death into the glory that awaits us on the other side.

 

“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.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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