Lectio Divina: John 16:16-20
1) Opening prayer
Lord God, our Father,
You are not far away from any of us,
for in You we live and move and exist
and You live in us
through Your Holy Spirit.
Be with us indeed, Lord,
send us Your Holy Spirit of truth
and through Him deepen our understanding
of the life and message of Your Son,
that we may accept the full truth
and live by it consistently.
We ask You this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 16:16-20
Jesus said to his disciples:"A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me."So some of his disciples said to one another,"What does this mean that he is saying to us,'A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,'and 'Because I am going to the Father'?"So they said, "What is this 'little while' of which he speaks?We do not know what he means."Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them,"Are you discussing with one another what I said,'A little while and you will not see me,and again a little while and you will see me'?Amen, amen, I say to you,you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices;you will grieve, but your grief will become joy."
• John 16:16: Absence and presence. Jesus says a “little while” (un mikròn), that is to say, a very brief period of time, perhaps one “instant.” Over and beyond the multiplicity of nuances, what we want to stress here is the exiguity of time. Just as the time that Jesus remained as Incarnate Word with His own, in the same way, the time between His departure and His return, will also be brief. There will be no change in the interior situation of His disciples because the relationship with Jesus does not change: He is permanently close to them. Therefore, the vision of Jesus will not suffer any interruption, but will be characterized by the communion of life with Him (Jn 14:19).
The repeated use of the verb “to see” in v. 16 is interesting: “In a short time you will no longer see Me, and then a short time later you will see Me again”. The expression “a short time you will no longer see Me” recalls the way in which the disciples see in the historical Jesus the Son of God. The other expression, “a short time later you will see Me again”, recalls the experience of the Risen Christ. Jesus seems to want to say to the disciples that for a very short time the conditions to see Him still exist, to recognize Him in His visible flesh, but later, they will see Him in a different vision and He will show Himself transformed, transfigured.
• John 16:17-19: The lack of understanding of the disciples. In the meantime, some disciples do not succeed in understanding what this absence signifies, means, that is to say, His going to the Father. They experience a certain disturbance regarding the words of Jesus and they express this, asking four questions joined together in one expression: “What is He saying; what does it mean?” Other times the reader has listened to the questions of Peter, of Philip, of Thomas, and now of those disciples who ask for an explanation. The disciples do not understand what He is speaking about. The disciples have not understood how Jesus can be seen again by them if He goes to the Father (vv.16-19). But the question seems to be concentrated on the expression “a short time”, that for the reader, seems to be a very long time that never ends, especially when one has anguish and sadness. In fact, the time of sadness does not pass away. An answer is expected of Jesus, but the Evangelist places a repetition of the same question as before: “You are asking one another what I meant by saying, ‘In a short time you will no longer see Me; and then a short time later you will see Me again?’” (v. 19).
• John 16:20: Jesus’ response. In fact Jesus does not respond to the question asked: “What does ‘in a short time mean’?” He invites them to trust. It is true that the disciples will be tried and tested. They will suffer very much, being alone in a hostile situation, abandoned in a world which rejoices because of the death of Jesus. However, He assures them that their sadness will be changed into joy. The time of sadness is opposed by time in which everything will be overturned. That opposing clause, “but your sadness will be transformed into joy,” underlines such a change of perspective. For the reader it is evident that the expressions “a short time” and “in a short time” correspond to that instant or moment in which the situation is overturned, but until that moment everything will be of sadness and trial.
In the end, the disciples receive from Jesus a promise of happiness and joy. In the instant in which the difficult situation is overturned, to which “His own”, the ecclesial community, are subjected, they will enter into a reality of the world enlightened by the resurrection. In our own lives, through contemplation and the acceptance of Jesus, we can also go from weeping and mourning while the world rejoices, to experiencing joy.
4) Personal questions
• Am I convinced that the moment of trial or suffering will pass away and He will come back to be with me?”
• “You will be weeping and wailing, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” What effect do these words of Jesus have in your lives? How do you live your moments of sadness and anguish?
• What are various ways we may “not see Him” and “a little while later, we see Him”?
• Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, and Bernard are all saints who spoke of the “dark night”. There is a saying: “absence make the heart grow fonder.” What is your attitude when there is a reunion, when “a little while later, we see Him”? Do we use it as a time to renew and strengthen our relationship with Him, to move beyond being “lukewarm”, or do we get upset and demand “where have you been?”
5) Concluding Prayer
The whole wide world has seen
the saving power of our God.
Acclaim the Lord, all the earth,
burst into shouts of joy! (Ps 98:3-4)