Homily May 18th, 2023

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter – Jn 16:16-20

There are two details that call our attention in today’s Gospel, in which Jesus continues His discourse with His disciples in the upper room. First, although the disciples have been listening to Jesus speak, this last line, “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me” is difficult to understand. Given that all of them are together in close quarters in the upper room after having shared the Passover meal, the scene must have seemed a little ridiculous; rather than ask Jesus Himself what He meant, some of the disciples instead begin to speak among themselves with Jesus right there. Secondly, it also calls our attention that Jesus’ explanation of His words hardly seems like an explanation at all: to a question of a little while, Jesus answers “You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” It seems like a non-answer.

Part of the reason for the disciples’ difficulty comes from the words Jesus uses for see: we use the same word in English, but in Greek the two verbs are very different. The first see, in “A little while and you will no longer see me,” is the Greek theóreó (θεωρέω). It emphasizes the act of vision, an act that looks critically at the object because the viewer is interested in it and wants to analyze it or know more about it.[1] The second see, in “and again a little while later and you will see me,” is the Greek horaó (ὁράω). It emphasizes the result of seeing, and is often used metaphorically to “see with the mind,” or to understand and to spiritual perceive.[2] The nuance is important: the disciples will be deprived of Christ’s physical presence; they won’t be able to gaze upon Him and reflect on His words and deeds right then and there. However, after His death and Resurrection, and particularly after the descent of the Holy Spirit, they will see Christ for who He is, namely, the Son of God, coming to understand who He really is.

This point is easily applied to our lives. Often we complain about what we have to endure or suffer, about some aspect of God’s will that doesn’t seem to make much sense. Fulton Sheen reminds us that there are times, especially in moments of frustration and failure, when we “may be driven back, disappointed, disillusioned, and disgusted from the very Christ Who once was everything to [us]. But in such moments, like John [the Baptist], we must bring our seeming defeat to the Lord, and never brood over it and assume we know better than the Lord.” All these things can be taken to Christ, through spiritual directors and superiors, but also to Christ Himself in prayer. Otherwise, we remain like that handful of disciples: chatting among ourselves or even within ourselves, ignoring the One who is ever present and who is the one who can help us in all our difficulties. Rather than complain, all of these are opportunities to move beyond simply seeing Christ abstractly, and to see Him for who He truly is: the God who loves us and wants to make us saints.

The second point, that Jesus doesn’t seem to answer the questions placed to Him, is not unique to this passage. The Gospels give us at least 29 passages where, rather than answering, Jesus responds to a question with a question of His own, and to some questions, particularly during His Passion, Jesus simply remained silent.[3] Yet, that silence speaks volumes to us, since nothing Christ does is without a purpose. In our lives, too, sometimes we ask God for the reasons or the whys of what He does, or even just for help to understand, only to be met with silence. Even in His seeming silence, though, God listens to our needs. As Fulton Sheen continues that earlier passage, he writes: “The moment when we condemn the Lord for forgetting us, is the time when the Lord most highly praises us. We have no idea how much we are loved in that hour when it seems we are the most unloved. . . .  The apparent forgetfulness of Christ as we toil in oblivion is the time when we are most remembered.” This silence is a way for us to come to see Christ at work in our lives, to perceive His hand at work.

Let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Star of the Evangelization, for the grace to turn to Jesus in our needs, and embrace whatever He wills.

[1] Vincent’s Word Studies for Jn 1:18; HELPS Word-studies 2334 theōréō (from 2300 /theáomai, “to gaze, contemplate”) – gaze on for the purpose of analyzing (discriminating).

[2] Vincent’s Word Studies for Jn 16:16; HELPS Word-studies 3708 horáō – properly, see, often with metaphorical meaning: “to see with the mind” (i.e. spiritually see), i.e. perceive (with inward spiritual perception).

[3] Mt 9:14-15; Mt 15:1-3; Mt 15:32-34; Mt 17:24-26; Mt 21:16; Mt 26:6-10; Mk 2:1-11;  Mk 4:10, 13; Mk 4:38, 40; Mk 7:17-18; Mk 10:2-3; Mk 12:14-17; Mk 12:18, 20-24; Lk 2:48-49; Lk 6:1-3; Lk 10:25-26; Lk 10: 29, 36; Lk 12:41-43; Lk 18:18-19; Lk 20:1-4; Lk 24:17-19; Jn 3:4, 10; Jn 6:60-71; Jn 8:3-10; Jn 11:8-10; Jn 13:37-38; Jn 18:22-23; Jn 18:33-34; Jn 21:20-22



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