And No One Will Take Your Joy from You

Today’s Gospel reading echoes with the refrain of joy. Jesus reveals to his disciples the promise of imminent joy, yet it is a joy purchased only through suffering.

Walking through Fire

Perhaps the most joyful passage I have known in all of literature comes from Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which the poet Dante finally reaches the shores of earthly paradise.  After his harrowing journey to the bottom of hell and then his climb up to purgatory, he comes at last to the gates of heaven. It is a moment unlike any other in literature.

Memorably, however, at the top of purgatory, he must pass a final test by walking through a wall of fire. This scene always makes me tremble. Up until this point, the reader walks side by side with the poet, sharing in all that he experiences. Yet at the wall of fire, one wishes only to run away. Dante too wavers, fearful of the flames, until Virgil reminds him that his beloved Beatrice stands waiting for him on the other side.  Roused by holy love, he walks bravely through the purifying fire.

The cantos which follow offer some of the most luminous moments in literature, for they bring us with Dante to the shores of paradise. Joy flows richly in these pages. Yet the lesson is clear:  such joy, the true joy of heaven, comes only to the soul willing to endure the crucible of suffering.

Your Pain Will Turn to Joy

We all know this intellectually, but it is a far different matter to live this out tangibly, in the grit of real life. Moreover, while it is one thing to hear of another person’s suffering, it is another to walk through the fire oneself. Here, Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel strengthen the faltering soul with the promise of new life: “You will have pain, but your pain will turn to joy.”  As a woman in labor endures anguish but no longer remembers it after she has borne her child, so too the disciples will grieve the loss of their Lord, only to rejoice afterwards when they see him again. Jesus tells them this will be a joy unlike any other: “no one shall take that joy away from you.”

on joy

During this recent Holy Week, as I tried to walk with Jesus through the last days before his Passion, I found myself feeling apprehension and even dread at the prospect of his suffering. The closer it came, the more I felt the urge to run away. How, I asked the Lord in prayer, did You come to embrace this suffering? As the days passed, he came right to the brink of His Passion, until there was no further step but to accept the cup or let it pass. We will likely never know the sheer weight of human sin He faced in his agony in the garden.  How could he bring Himself to embrace what was to come?

Love for Souls

The answer came like a clear, resounding song:  Love. It was love for the souls he desired to save that drew him even to embrace the Cross. Just as a woman brings a new child into the world through her labor pains, so too in his suffering and death, Jesus opens up the passageway toward a new life.  Such is the radical love of God that He not only accepted his suffering, but entered into it willingly, even lovingly, out of love for the single soul.

Sufferings come to us in both small forms and large, yet all of these, when united to the Passion of Christ, bear generative and even creative power. Jesus’ suffering was not an end unto itself, but the path to new life for every soul. We see this exemplified in the outpouring of blood and water from his pierced Heart.

So too, friends, let us bring to him our sufferings and embrace them as he embraced his Cross. In that dying to self, we come to taste new life, and the joy that no one can take away.

[Readings: Acts 18:9-18; John 16:20-23]

Radhika Sharda, MD

Radhika Sharda is a practicing physician and a convert to the Catholic faith from a Hindu background. She has written a book of essays on literature, Savour, which may be found on Amazon. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her three young boys.


  1. Ann Buda on May 10, 2024 at 12:56 pm

    This is one of the most beautiful articles I have read. It came to me at a perfect time as I have just buried my mother (and am grieving). I have such a hole in my heart.

    • Radhika Sharda on May 13, 2024 at 11:14 am

      Ann, I’m so sorry for your loss. How terribly painful, it must feel like a huge wound in your heart. I don’t think these sufferings ever get easier as time goes on, but they are times in which we come closer to Him in a deeper way. I pray that grace and deeper intimacy with jesus comes to you through this.

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