Women in labor are often encouraged to focus upon an object in the delivery room, such as a photograph, flowers, her husband’s eyes, a cross. This helps with relaxation, and takes an edge off the pain. By keeping their eyes on a “comfort object,” as they’re sometimes called, they’re better able to keep their eyes on the prize: the happy moment they first cradle their newborn in their arms.
Jesus used the image of a woman in labor in today’s gospel to prepare his disciples for the anguish and fear they would experience after his death. As a woman’s labor pains are forgotten after her child is born, so the disciples’ suffering would be replaced by the supreme joy of seeing him risen.
Jesus’ words can assure us too, when we experience pain and loss- times we might be tempted to despair and lose hope, because the agony and stress seem too much to bear. Jesus encourages us, much like a woman in labor, to stay focused on the joy and peace that he promises those who are faithful to him.
Our focus may not eliminate our pain, but will help us endure and persevere. Mother Teresa knew this well. “Never let anything cause you so much sorrow,” she said, “that you forget the joy of Jesus risen.”
Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/nab/060311.shtml