Acts of the Apostles 18:9-18

Ps 46:2-7. R. v.8

John 16:20-23


In 1998, I was privileged to witness the birth of my first nephew. I was the first to see his little face, and I cut the umbilical cord which had sustained him for nine months in my sister’s womb. There are no words to describe these moments – they are etched in my memory forever. Being with my sister during her labour was traumatic – having never given birth, I remain only witness to the suffering that women go through. My sister had chosen minimal pain relief, however it became so intolerable after 19 hours of labour, that she relented and accepted an epidural. I took this opportunity to step outside for a breath of fresh air.

I often think back to this walk, the busyness of the city, people shopping, working, walking, lunching, all seemingly oblivious to what was going on just upstairs. There was a sense of expectation in my heart, a prayer for my darling sister, along with a guilty relief that it wasn’t me. It was the time of ‘not-knowing’ what I came to know, it was the world ‘before Thomas,’ and it was the ‘me’ before my heart was changed, as it only can be by the birth of a child.

Jesus likens his leaving to the pain and uncertainty of a woman in labour – his disciples do not understand what is coming – Jesus’ impending death is causing them agony, pain without solace, and the unknown seems unbearable. Yet he promises to return. When this moment comes, he assures them, the joy felt will be unparalleled. A joy so complete that all distress and suffering will appear to be worth it. Just as childbirth is inverted to become the birth of the child, Jesus promises that death too, his and ours, will be transformed to become life anew.

Angela Marquis works for the Hobart Passionists at St Joseph’s in Tasmania, with WATAC (Women and the Australian Church), and as a primary school chaplain.