Jesus’ prediction that the time would come when his disciples would face difficulties and times of sorrow was certainly fulfilled in the first decades of the life of the Church. The image that Jesus uses in John’s Gospel to prepare the disciples for opposition and rejection is the exquisite joy a woman experiences after the travails and stresses of childbirth. It is a beautiful and evocative way of embodying and honouring the challenges faced by people of faith in every age who experience both joys and sorrows, hopes and anxieties.
The apostle Paul knew at first-hand the challenges of bringing new churches to birth during his apostolic ministry. Jesus had spoken of the need to go from town to town until his return and to be fearless in proclaiming the message. We see this lived out in Paul’s ministry after the Lord appeared to him in Corinth, encouraging him not to be fearful in proclaiming him as the Messiah. Paul’s preaching led to violent opposition from some members of the synagogue. Jesus’ prediction of not being fearful when being dragged before authorities is fulfilled when Paul is brought before Gallio. Sorrow and anxiety turn to joy when the proconsul surprisingly vindicates Paul and his message. In eighteen months, a vibrant community was established, and now was the opportune time for him to depart with Priscilla and Aquila. They too, had suffered for their faith and had been expelled from Rome. One door closes and another opens with a new mission beckoning in Syria and Asia Minor where they will bring more household churches to birth.
Fr. Chris Monaghan CP, lectures in the New Testament and is President of Yarra Theological Union. He is a member of the Passionist community of Holy Cross in Templestowe.