Acts 14: 19-28
But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.
After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.
Psalm 145: 10-13ab, 21
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.
John 14: 27-31a
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
A young mother-to-be sat in her childbirth class one evening. The nurse was making introductions, and she asked all the women there what they were nervous about regarding the upcoming births of their children. Many of them replied, “The pain!” The other young woman thought about this for a moment, though, and then said, “Well I know it’s going to hurt, but at least in that moment, being in pain is all you have to do – and it’s for a purpose. It’s not like you’re sick and wondering what is wrong.”
Perhaps one of the most painful aspects of suffering something in this life is the question why. Why does God allow us to suffer certain things? Is it a sign that we have done something wrong, or that He does not care about us? Does the Lord want us to be happy in this life at all or does He prefer that we become purified through suffering? We know that suffering does not automatically lead to holiness; on the contrary, our faith can be tested, and our trust in God undermined when we feel like we have been abandoned by Him. We also know that hearing that the suffering is for a purpose is not always comforting – ask anyone who has gone through the depths of sorrow and been told, “Everything happens for a reason.” How can God simultaneously love us more than anyone else and yet allow certain things to happen to us when we have been trusting Him and trying to follow Him?
The readings today speak to the question of suffering in our lives, and the purpose behind it. In the first reading, St. Paul was nearly stoned to death at the hands of the Pharisees, yet his response to the other disciples was to reassure them and let them know that he was still in God’s will and that this suffering was part of his mission. In the Gospel, Jesus also tells the apostles to not let their hearts be troubled or afraid. Even though He was about to pass through death, He was in the Father’s hand, and something greater was in store. His parting gift to His followers was the gift of peace, which surpasses the peace we can have in this world, and a promise of eternal happiness with Him and the Father.
While suffering remains a mystery for us, and we may not fully understand what we go through until we are in Heaven, we can be assured of three things:
1. The Lord is with us in our sufferings, and the fact that we are suffering does not mean that something is wrong or that we are displeasing to Him.
2. He excels in bringing good out of suffering and new life from death. The Paschal Mystery, which is the core of our faith, involves both death and resurrection, and we are called to share in this in various ways throughout our lives.
3. Because of this, we are called to peace, even when being at peace does not make sense. We honor the Lord when we trust Him in all circumstances, and strive to find Him even in suffering.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for being with me in every moment of my life, especially the moments of suffering. Thank you for your gift of peace, and help me to see you in those moments when I have struggled the most. Thank you for the ways you have brought good out of the painful things that have happened to me, and for constantly calling me to come closer to you. I love you and trust that all moments of my life are in your hands until all my longings are fulfilled when I see you in Heaven.