"See, my children, we must reflect that we have a soul to save, and an eternity that awaits us. The world, its riches, pleasures, and honors will pass away; heaven and hell will never pass away.” ~ St John Vianney
It’s something of a “Now you see me, now you don’t . . . but you will” message from Jesus in today’s Gospel (John 16:16-20) as he prepares his disciples for his Heavenly Ascension. In hide-and-go-seek-like fashion, Jesus tells his disciples “In a little while you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me,” causing some angst within his innermost circle and a request for more specifics, the bone of contention centering squarely on the use of this vague timeframe of a little while.
In the deadline-driven, clock-tethered, calendar-obsessed world we live in, a little while doesn’t cut it. The next time your boss asks you for a delivery timeframe on that high-profile project you’re working on for senior management, tell him or her I’ll have it completed “in a little while“ and see what happens. We don’t like uncertainty and we surely don’t like to wait.
Renowned psychologist and college professor Walter Mischel conducted a now-famous experiment in 1972 that he dubbed “The Stanford Marshmallow Test.” In this seminal study, a child was offered a very simple choice: Have one single marshmallow now, or wait an additional 15 minutes and be allowed to have two marshmallows. Follow-up studies found that the children who were able to wait longer for the preferred reward, in this case two marshmallows, tended to have better life outcomes measured by way of SAT Scores, educational attainment, even body mass index. The Marshmallow Test teaches us that patience is a major key to success. The secular world on the other hand tells us something much S’more different (...sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Yesterday we reflected upon our need for the Holy Spirit’s advocacy in navigating the prevailing issues of our times, especially in light of the confusion and uncertainty that is so prevalent https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Foreshadowing-the-Divine-Interpreter. A constant reminder of the unchanging and everlasting truth of God in an ever-changing and fleeting world is our primary weapon against the devil, who is remarkably good at beguiling many of us into forgetting that Jesus will in fact return . . . in “a little while.”
Remember, time is irrelevant in eternity, a concept that is virtually impossible for us to grasp in our linear world. This too is used by Satan, a poisonous arrow in his quiver that tricks us into abandoning the “long game” and choosing instead the cheap, immediate and saccharine pleasure that comes with sin.
Anxiety, rumination, doubt and boredom are but a handful of the other fallen human conditions and emotions that Satan leverages in his typically underhanded fashion. He dogs us over our past, as if it defines us, as if it’s the final chapter, the denouement of a worthless life mired in despair. None of this is true of course.
To pick up on Saint John Vianney’s quote that kicked off today’s reflection, he would go on to say “Let us take care, then. The saints did not all begin well; but they all ended well. We have begun badly; let us end well, and we shall go one day and meet them in Heaven."
Heaven. Let us never forget that Heaven, this eternal paradise where Jesus will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4) is the destination of those who endure with faith, selflessness and obedience. As Saint Catherine of Siena once said “Whenever the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.” An occasional reminder of our future would certainly go a long way as well.
So take solace and place your hope in today’s Gospel Message, of which I leave you Jesus’ closing words (John 16:20), words we will reflect upon much deeper tomorrow.
“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 16:20
This is the promise from a God who always keeps his promises. But we must wait patiently, joyfully, and faithfully . . . a little while longer.