hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."
is a certain level of risk involved when men write about the birth of
their children. It is the mother, after all, who does all of the heavy
lifting of labor and birth. However, the births of each of our children
are my most indelible memories. Our first child was born on Good Friday at
5:13 in the morning. Labor began the day before, Maundy Thursday. I was a
student and a newly ordained deacon at the time. The new arrival took
priority. A colleague of mine conducted what were to have been my first
Holy Week services as an ordained person. The weeks of Lent had been
passed in anticipation of the baby's arrival. Easter took on a very
special feel that year. Resurrection was celebrated through the experience
of having a new born. More than three decades have elapsed since that Holy
Week and Easter; but I have a lasting appreciation for a metaphor Jesus
uses in anticipation of his passion and resurrection. According to John,
as the time for Jesus' passion draws near, he speaks with his disciples in
a parable drawn from birthing.
a woman is in labor, she has pain because her hour has come. But when her
child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of
having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I
will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take
your joy from you." (John 16:21,22 NRSV).
pains are not erased from memory. What is meant here is that the hard work
of labor gives way to the euphoria that comes with the new born child. The
original Greek language version of this story makes it clear that the pain
and physical pressure of giving birth are transitory. The joy that comes
with the new life is long lasting. Undercurrents of longing and
anticipation flow throughout John's Gospel--no where more so than in this
passage. The disciples will experience a double longing. They will long
for Jesus after his death on the cross. After his resurrection they will
wait with anticipation for eternal life. Jesus encourages them with the
promise that their longings will be replaced with permanent joy.
are a great many things to long and pine for in our world. Many of them,
even if eventually obtained, fail to bring any true sense of peace or joy
with them. Stories both ancient and modern counsel us to take care about
the nature of our wants, desires, and longings. The Gospel is coaching us
to see the connection between lasting joy and the things we long for in
the first place. The disciples have a spiritual desire and longing for the
fullness of a Christ centered life. Longing for a more peaceful world, a
more compassionate society, for close or closer relationships with family
and friends, for a sense of place or community, for a life of faith and
meaning, such longings contain the seeds of joy and fulfillment.
Righteousness brings lasting fulfillment to those who hunger and thirst
for it. Each, year in holy Week and Easter, faithful Christians recall the
passion and resurrection of Christ. Such recollections afford us an
opportunity to carefully review our deepest human longings within the
horizon of eternal life. What longings are laboring within you ? What joy
and gladness is waiting to be born from them?
Rev. Canon Rod Gillis, Passiontide and Easter 2009
God you have made us for yourself, and against your longing there is no
defence, Mark us with your love, and release in us a passion for your
justice in our disfigured world, that we may turn from our guilt and face
you, our heart's desire.
A prayer by Janet Morley from "All Desires Known" (Morehouse-Barlow
1988 p. 13)