The Lord’s Promise of Joy

Today, in some parts of the world, is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. You probably must have heard about “Ascension Thursday”, right? Yes, traditionally, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord has been celebrated “40 days after Easter” in keeping with the Scriptural reference in Acts: “He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

Easter is a moveable feast, being celebrated on a different date in March or April every year. But 40 days after Easter (which is a moveable feast), will always be a Thursday. For pastoral reasons, different countries and dioceses have transferred the Solemnity of the Ascension, to the Seventh Sunday of Easter. But some other countries retain the traditional “Ascension Thursday”. No doubt, in the Vatican City, today is Ascension. But Italy (which is the closest to the Vatican City geographically) shifts the celebration to the 7th Sunday of Easter, likewise some other countries.

Before writing this reflection, I tried to consider the fact that majority of the countries have today as simply Thursday of the 6th Week of Easter, and not Ascension. Therefore, our reflection is on the Gospel of the (ferial) day.

“A Little While”

What Jesus is saying seems incomprehensible. The disciples’ questions express this: “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’?” In fact, Jesus does not answer the questions they ask him at all, instead he invites them to trust.

Cost of Discipleship

For Jesus, the disciples will be tested, they will suffer a lot, they will be alone in a hostile situation, abandoned to a world that rejoices in the death of Jesus and the seeming triumph of evil. He, however, assures that their sadness will turn into joy. “You will be afflicted, but your sadness will turn into joy.”

Sometimes we think that following Jesus is the guarantee for a complete happy life devoid of problems, the guarantee of serenity, of imperturbable peace, of a life made only of beautiful things. But all these expectations find a void in the face of the cross, the suffering, the pain that we touch with our hands every day. Such “guarantees” do not exist, and much less can we seek them by following Jesus.

Other Side of the Coin

There may also be the other side of the coin and that is to think that following Jesus entails only sacrifice, mortification, prohibition; hence the guarantee for a sad life. This is also what Christianity is not.

Your Grief Will Become Joy

What then is this joy of which Jesus speaks? It is a joy that is found in a deeper level: a joy that cannot simply be understood intellectually, but which we can only experience. A joy that doesn’t avoid pain, but that is capable of going through it and surpassing it. The joy of Jesus is that of those who love him. He who does not love cannot be joyful. Joy and love walk together. Christian joy has its source in love, it is a ray of love. And the source of love is God: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 90:15 – a particular translation has it thus: “give us joy to balance our affliction.”


Are you, at the moment, experiencing sorrow, sadness, grief or difficult challenges in life? My prayer is for God to grant you joy to balance your affliction, and may your sorrow turn into joy. Amen.

[Readings: Acts 18:1-8; Jn 16:16-20]

Fr. John Bosco Obiako

Fr. JohnBosco Obiako is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu, Nigeria. He is a doctoral student of Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome - Italy, with a special interest in Philosophy and Ethics of technology. He also provides spiritual and pastoral services as Chaplain to African Anglophone Catholic Community in the Diocese of Prato, Italy. Email contact: [email protected]

Leave a Comment