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May 22 - John 16: 20-23a

Fr. Michael MachacekNativity of Our LordMay 22, 2020

For the readings of today’s mass, go to               

“When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father, he said to the disciples: ‘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. When a woman is in labour, 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.’”

During His Last Supper Discourse Jesus uses the image of childbirth to communicate the transition all those who follow Him will undergo in the next 50 days:  Watching Him be arrested, put through a horribly unjust trial, beaten and scourged, forced to carry a cross and then be crucified and die. 

Shortly thereafter, they will encounter the Risen Jesus more than a few times, sadly have to say goodbye to Him with His Ascension, and then 10 days later, be there for Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Yes, much anguish would lead to much joy. 

As Pat Marrin points out, when men talk to other men about trials involving suffering and great courage, they turn to sports metaphors or war. When Jesus wanted to prepare his Apostles for the heart-wrenching experience of his departure and death, he told them they would have to be as strong as a woman in childbirth. Now that is pain.  And any man with an ounce of brains in his head would have to admit that nothing could compare to the pain of a woman giving birth. 

Why this feminine analogy from Jesus?  I think Jesus uses it in recognition of the role of women in His own life, starting with His mother, Mary.  She was the one who bore Him, birthed Him, nurtured Him, and loved Him to the end. But other women were also part of His life, particularly in His ministry.  For it was His female disciples, including Mary Magdalene, who were the first to witness the Risen Jesus.  And of course, in the Pentecost event, thankfully His mother was again there, who was able to reassure the fearful male disciples present that all was well when the Holy Spirit cam upon the Apostles in tongues of flames.  For she was quite familiar with the Spirit, beginning with the day of her Annunciation (Lk. 1: 26-38).

Today I give thanks to God to the role of women in my life, starting with my own mother.  The role of my grandmothers, my aunts, and my female friends have molded and shaped me for the better, especially in terms of my growth in faith over the years. 

On this 22nd day of May, let us say a prayer of thanks to God for the women in our life, including our common mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Speaking of women in our lives, I recently came across an article of a group of nuns in Nigeria who are living witnesses of our faith being put into action: