Again Jesus talks of the sorrow that turns to joy. His going shall cause immense pain but his rising shall bring great joy. Jesus shows his humanity so often in the way he speaks spiritual truths. In this passage he refers to a woman giving birth and how her pain turns to joy. His undestanding of human nature should be a consolation to us because he knows our fears, worries and every other human emotion we have. The wonderful thing about Jesus is that he is not some far away God. He is near at hand, almost within our grasp. And he always shows concern for us. In this passage he prepares the disciples for the joy that the world shall feel at his death but assures them that he shall return again. When the crunch comes the apostles cannot hope to understand all that Jesus said. It is only in hindsight, with the help of the Holy Spirit who calls all things to mind, that they see clearly what Jesus was saying. "When that day comes you will not ask me any questions," because the Spirit shall give undestanding to their minds. That's what the Spirit does, he reveals the meaning of who Jesus was and what he said. The Church in these days is preparing us for Pentecost. The readings all point to the illuminating grace of the Spirit.
Of course, not all feel the revulsion towards the fact of suffering that some do. In his account of the history of his religious views (1864), John Henry Newman has a powerful passage on the effect on him of the sight of the evil and suffering of the world. “I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress... I look into this living busy world, and see no reflexion of its Creator ..... The sight of the world is nothing else than the prophet’s scroll, full of ‘lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (Apologia pro Vita Sua, ch.5, p.250). The general point here is that while all living things experience pain in the sense that they undergo trauma, attack and decline, in a superior sense it is man who “suffers.” Further, being conscious of the independent Self that he is, he is able to reflect on the fact of his suffering and on the higher purpose that his suffering may have. As man, he senses that this is part of his calling. He is called to suffer, and he senses that by suffering well, he will improve the world. He, then, can look on suffering in a different way to the rest of suffering creation. He need not simply endure it — he can see that it has its place in his work for a better world. He has the sense that, properly speaking, it has a higher place for his Self than something to be merely endured. By his suffering he can be a better person, and by it he can make the world a better place. Within this perspective, let us situate our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel (John 16:20-23). “Jesus said to his disciples, I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” The greatest example of human suffering is that of Jesus Christ, and he embraced it as being the plan of God for the salvation of the world. By his sufferings he took away the sin of the world, and made it possible for all things to become new. He is the archetypal Man whose sufferings brought joy to the world. If we unite ourselves to him, our sufferings will, as St Paul writes, fill up what is lacking in his sufferings (Colossians 1:24). Thus by our sufferings we become co-redeemers with Christ the one and only Redeemer, with Mary his Mother being the foremost co-redeemer with him who is the only Redeemer.
Suffering is the worst thing about existence. But in another sense, it is the best thing about existence, because we have learnt from the example of the Suffering Man of the ages, Jesus Christ, that it is the principal path to goodness and the doing of good. Just as we are called to do good, so we are called to suffer. The key to it is to suffer with the Suffering Servant who bore the sin of the world through his obedient suffering. Let us then resolve to share in the sufferings of Christ, so as to share in his Resurrection. As our Lord says, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no-one will take away your joy.”