Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? 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 labor, 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. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
I can’t remember how old she was when my youngest daughter, Anna, declared, “My happy place is wherever I am.” She was young, that I know. You have to be young to make a statement like that.
Anna referred to her feeling as happiness, but what she actually described was joy. Happiness is a feeling of satisfaction based on favorable circumstances, and it comes and goes as circumstances change. Joy, on the other hand, is persistent and can stubbornly remain even when life is uncertain or even painful.
In our Scripture today, Jesus is giving the disciples hints about the near future. He warns them that soon they won’t see him anymore, and it will be painful. But it won’t be the end of the story. Jesus also tells them they will see him again, and when they do, their hearts will rejoice. They will be filled with joy that no one, no pain, can take from them. Once the disciples see their resurrected Lord, once they realize the end of the story, joy will be a constant companion, no matter what the circumstances.
The gift of joy is offered to us, as well. Because we know the story’s end, because we know the resurrected Lord is with us always, because we know that Love wins, our hearts can hold joy, even within our pain. We can say with the little children, “My joyful place is wherever I am.” Thanks be to God, who makes our joy complete.