After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized.
O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
Between Priscilla and Aquila being kicked out of Rome by Emperor Claudius’ edict and St. Paul being rejected in the synagogue when he tried to preach the good news of Jesus, our first reading is full of rejection. In one light, we can read it through the eyes of discomfort and dejection. We might relate to it, thinking of the unsuccessful ventures of our own lives, the times we faced rejection, or when our zeal and enthusiasm burned out. We often turn to God in those times to ask him, “why?” We want to know why he did not act when he could have. We wonder why we were asked to suffer in some way. We wonder why he let those doors slam in our faces. We feel hurt by rejection, rebel from being called out of comfort, and we are confused when we feel like God is not with us.
For the disciples in the Gospel, Jesus is preparing them for his Ascension into heaven. He was getting them ready for when he would no longer be physically visible to them and able to talk to them face to face. This is a sad and distressing concept for the disciples, as it would be for any of us who love God. Jesus assures them that, while the pain they suffer is real, it is not eternal. While we endure trials and cope with hardship, it will not last forever. God always has a purpose beyond our comfort zones. Priscilla and Aquila may have been sent out of Rome by the emperor, but they were brought into fellowship with St. Paul, enabling him to stay with them and preach. St. Paul may have suffered rejection from those in the synagogue, but through it he was able to bring the message of salvation to the Gentiles. The disciples may have had to watch Jesus depart from their company to ascend to the Father, but after his Ascension, he was able to send his Holy Spirit through the whole world.
While our trials and our pain may not have such clear happy endings, we are all called to trust God with these hardships. We may not know now what God’s purpose is in all of it, but we can trust that he is capable of turning our sorrow into joy. He will not let our sadness be wasted. He has compassion on us in our pain. Let us pray today for God’s grace to carry our crosses with him, and ask that through our struggle, he will bring about an even greater good.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I surrender my life to you. I give you all my pain, I give you all my trials, I give you all my doubts. I trust that you can use my hardships to form me more into your image so that you can use me to serve your purpose. Be with me in the hard times and help keep me focused on you. I ask that you use my struggle to help bring about a greater good, and that in so doing, you will turn my pain into joy. Amen.