Battling with Discouragement

5.10.18 Thurs. 6th wk of Easter (II)
Acts of Apostles 18: 1 – 8
Gospel of John 16: 16 – 20

Jesus said to his disciples: “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “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’?” So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks? We do not know what he means.” †Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing with one another what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” The Gospel of the Lord.

Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy                       Battling with Discouragement
In yesterday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul was preaching in Athens at the Areopagus and Paul spoke eloquently of the true God, of †Jesus and His sacrifice; His death and resurrection. However, the response of the Athenian people was lukewarm at best. The attitude of the people was: “Thanks a lot, some other time, maybe, we’ll let you know; don’t call us, we’ll call you”. Some did come to believe Paul, but not many at all.
In today’s chronicle of St. Paul’s journey, he is now in Corinth. Corinth was a huge, important city in the Roman Empire; it was the center of commerce and trade. And unlike the polite Athenians, the Jewish Corinthians openly opposed St. Paul and reviled him, yelling at him; but the story does not end there. Eventually, many of the Corinthians came to believe, but it took patience and perseverance on the part of St. Paul. These are classic examples of the principle: “When one door closes – God opens another one”. A lesser person might have given up in the face of the opposition and anger of the people, but St. Paul had trust and faith in God and in the mission that been entrusted to him. Discouraging results would not stop him.
All of us face discouragement in our lives; all of us have experienced discouragement when things don’t go right. Other people may weary us, circumstances in life can get us down, or our own habitual sin can cause us to be discouraged about our spiritual life and our relationship with God. The evildoer will sometimes use our human discouragement to further his plans to separate us from God; to distract us from our mission.
Fr. Lou Cameli in his book: “The Devil You Don’t Know”, writes: “Everyone seems touched by discouragement. The causes are many, ranging from failed expectations of relationships, to work, to one’s personal future…Discouragement manifests itself on the joyless faces of people…who even sit in the pews of the Church”. (The Devil You Don’t Know, Fr. Louis Camelli, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana; p.125) All of us can experience discouragement in our lives, and it can cause us to give up on a marriage, on the Church, even on God Himself.
In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, he offers us some advice. This is what he writes: “For while we live, we are always being given up to death for †Jesus’ sake – so that the life of †Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh – so we do not lose heart. Even though our outer body is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure”. (2 Cor. 4:12, 16-17) St. Paul identified the power that allows us to carry on in discouraging circumstances; it is God’s power and the primacy of Grace, the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
Again – according to Fr. Cameli: “The key…to Paul’s capacity to stay sustained and encouraged in the course of his struggles – is the holy purpose of those struggles – the manifestation of the life and death of the Lord †Jesus”. (ibid., p.153) Your mission, your vocation, is holy! It was given to you by God, and when it’s a struggle, it becomes a holy struggle. We are not to allow the discouragement to send us off track.
Imagine the discouragement of †Jesus on the cross. After a lifetime of loving and caring for people, of healing people, of speaking to thousands who were spellbound by His teaching. It all came down to His mother, a couple of women and a young disciple keeping watch at the foot of the cross until He died. Imagine His discouragement – and on human terms – the failure of His mission. And †Jesus would even cry out from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matt.27:46) We must see our struggles in life, in a marriage, a career, a family, a community – as our journey with Christ – a holy mission. Our discouraging experiences as our personal passion and crucifixion – can be sacrificial for us. We will defeat the evildoer as †Jesus did, as St. Paul did, if we trust in the power of God and the Primacy of the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
Before facing His horrible passion and His moment of human discouragement – and knowing that His disciples were going to be facing it as well in the days ahead – †Jesus said to them: “You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices; you will grieve but your grief will be turned to joy”. (John 16:20) If everything we do, we do for the glory and honor of God – discouragement will not lead us to abandoning our holy mission. Discouragement will lead to surrender – to trust in the power of God – to trust in the Primacy of Grace. With patience and perseverance – the Lord will open that other door for us – the door to joy, peace and eternal life: “For an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure”. (2 Cor. 4:17)
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.