THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Third Sunday after Easter
12 May 2019
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In today's Gospel Jesus is preparing the disciples for His death (departure), resurrection (return), Ascension (depart-ure), and then eternal union with Him in Heaven. Each of these times is "a little while" in the grand overall scheme of things. Our lives here on earth are but a succession of joys and sorrows. Neither the joys nor the sorrows of this life are of any lengthy duration when we compare them to the eternal joys or the eternal torments that await us after we leave this world. From this perspective of eternity, the longest joys or sufferings (no matter how intense they may be) here on earth are truly a very short while.
We are offered the example of a woman in the labor of childbirth. Her sorrow is great because the time of pain and suffering is currently present. However, this sorrow is soon turned into great joy so great that she forgets her previous sorrow when her child is born. God has willed that our lives be this way and so this is truly good and necessary for us. It is by comparing extremes that we come to a worthy appreciation for them. Happiness is best appreciated and valued when we remember previous (especially intense) sorrow. Sorrow is most bitter when we recall previous joys. When the Prodigal son was in the greatest poverty and want, his sorrow was made even greater by the remembrance of the joy that was once his. The joy of his father when he returned was made ever so much greater by the remembrance of the previous sorrow caused by the loss of this son.
Our lives are a continual succession of joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains. Both extremes come from the hand of our loving God and Father in Heaven. They are all good and necessary for us. At times we need joy to encourage us to advance in this world and even more importantly in the spiritual world. These times of joy buoy us up and prevent us from giving into despair and hopelessness. At other times, sorrow is necessary to protect us from the sin of presumption and rein in pride and vanity that almost invariably set in.
These joys and sorrows come and go in our physical lives and are often very intense, but they become even more so in the spiritual realm. In the spiritual realm, we are bearing Christ so that He may be born in us. Our spiritual goal is to have the Life of Jesus Christ living within us. We are ever striving to be able to say with St. Paul that it is not us, but Jesus Christ living within us. The labors of bringing Jesus forth in the birth of our own spiritual lives is one of great sorrow and pain just as there is great physical pain and sorrow for a mother bringing forth a child. To bring forth the life of Jesus within us, we must deny ourselves, we must take up a daily cross and we must follow Jesus. In all of this, we find sorrow and pain as we must sacrifice our own wills as well as many worldly pleasures. Once we have completed this necessary cycle of dying to ourselves and the world, then joy sets in and we truly begin to live.
Our holy mother the Church leads us through these cycles in the liturgical seasons. Every year we have penitential seasons followed by joyful seasons of celebration. If we examine the spiritual lives of the saints or those striving to become saints, we see that their lives here on earth are likewise this succession of joys and sorrows. In this life, we swing on a kind of pendulum from one side to the other and back again. All of this can be done without ever sinning or offending God. There is no need to offend God with the very joys He sends us, nor is there any reason to offend Him through rejection because He sends us painful crosses and sorrows.
If we could only learn to recognize that everything that happens will work for the glory of God and the good of all those that truly love Him, we would become indifferent to the fluctuations of this world. Our crosses, pains, or sorrows are just as good and necessary to us as our pleasures and joys. If we must suffer for a little while this is what we need and it is good, true and just and therefore, we should be thankful for it. We must always be grateful to God for everything even when we do not understand how it can be of any good or of any use. Faith shows us that God can and does turn the greatest of evils into the greatest of goods. The evils of Christ's passion and death on the cross were turned into the greatest good of our redemption.
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