When Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them and then after a bit he would return to them, he was very likely referring to his three days’ separation from them while he would be in the tomb. They would grieve his loss, but their sorrow would turn to joy on his return to them. And of course this is what happened.
The joy the apostles felt when Jesus returned to them was so intense that it carried them through years of persecution and trials, to martyrdoms, which they joyously accepted.
Success in ministry often enough follows this same pattern: those being evangelized will resist the word, whether it’s the word preached or the word acted out in our lives, and their resistance may manifest itself in insult, ridicule or even physical violence. The pain guarantees the success of ministry. We see this pattern playing itself out in the first reading.
The Acts of the Apostles and Paul in his letters tell us how the Apostle of the Gentiles frequently suffered because of his ministry. In today’s first reading Paul, accused by his own people, has been brought by them before a pagan official on charges stemming from his preaching the name of Christ. Paul had however the great joy of knowing that he was leading many of his listeners to discipleship with Christ.
We have our trials and often enough they cause us to wonder why this is happening to us, why we cannot find God. We tend to forget that the deaths of martyrs are the seeds that give growth to the Church.
With this realization, we need only to remember to cling to Christ, and peace will descend on us, a peace that the world can neither give nor take from us.