LECTIO DIVINA: John 16:16-20

John 16:16-20

From Order of Carmelites

1) Opening Prayer

Lord God, our Father,
you are not far away from any of us,
for in you we live and move and exist
and you live in us
through your Holy Spirit.
Be indeed with us, Lord,
send us your Holy Spirit of truth
and through him deepen our understanding
of the life and message of your Son,
that we may accept the full truth
and live by it consistently.
We ask you this through Christ our Lord.


2) Gospel Reading – John 16:16-20

Jesus told to his disciples: “In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean, ‘In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again,’ and, ‘I am going to the Father’? What is this ‘short time’? We don’t know what he means.” Jesus knew that they wanted to question him, so he said, “You are asking one another what I meant by saying, ‘In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again.’ In all truth I tell you, you will be weeping and wailing while the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.”

3) Reflection

John 16:16: Absence and presence. Jesus says a “little while” (un mikròn), that is to say, a very brief period of time, perhaps one “instant.” Over and beyond the multiplicity of nuances what we want to stress here is the exiguity of time. Just as the time that Jesus remained as Incarnate Word, with his own, in the same way, the time between his departure and his return, will also be brief. There will be no change in the interior situation of his disciples because the relationship with Jesus does not change: he is permanently close to them. Therefore, the vision of Jesus will not suffer any interruption but will be characterized by the communion of life with him.

The repeated use of the verb “to see” is interesting: In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again. The expression “a short time you will no longer see me” recalls the way with which the disciples see in the historical Jesus the Son of God; the other expression “a short time later you will see me again” recalls the experience of the Risen Christ. Jesus seems to want to say to the disciples that for a very short time the conditions to see him still exist, to recognize him in his visible flesh, but later, they will see him in a different vision in so far as he will show himself transformed, transfigured.

John 16:17-19: Here is the lack of understanding of the disciples. Some disciples do not succeed in understanding what this absence signifies or means, that is to say, his going to the Father. They experience a certain disturbance regarding the words of Jesus and they express this asking four questions, joined together in one same expression: What he is saying, what does it mean? Other times the reader has listened to the questions of Peter, of Philip, of Thomas, and of Judah (not Iscariot), and now those disciples ask for an explanation. The disciples do not succeed in understanding what he is speaking about. The disciples have not understood how Jesus can be seen again by them if he goes to the Father. But the question seems to be concentrated on the expression “a short time” that for the reader seems to be a very long time that never ends, especially when one has anguish and sadness. In fact, the time of sadness does not pass away. An answer of Jesus is expected, but the Evangelist places a repetition of the same question as before: You are asking one another what I meant by saying: “In a short time you will no longer see me; and then a short time later you will see me again?”

John 16:20: The response of Jesus: Jesus does not respond to the question asked: What does in a short time, mean? But he invites them to trust. It is true that the disciples will be tried, tested, they will suffer very much, they will be alone in a hostile situation, abandoned in a world which rejoices because of the death of Jesus, but, he assures them, their sadness will be changed into joy. Against the time of sadness is opposed a time in which everything will be overturned. That opposing clause “but your sadness will be transformed into joy,” underlines such a change of perspective. For the reader it is evident that the expressions, “a short time,” and, “in a short time,” correspond to that instant or moment in which the situation is overturned, but up to that moment everything will be of sadness and trial.

In last instance, the disciples receive from Jesus a promise of happiness, of joy; in virtue of that instant in which the difficult situation is overturned, to which “his own,” the ecclesial community, are subjected, they will enter into a reality of the world enlightened by the resurrection.

4) Personal Questions

  • Am I convinced that the moment of trial, of suffering, will pass away and he will come back to be with me?
  • You will be weeping and wailing, but your sorrow will turn into joy. What effect do these words of Jesus have in your human events? How do you live your moments of sadness and of anguish?

5) Concluding Prayer

The whole wide world has seen the saving power of our God.
Acclaim the Lord, all the Earth, burst into shouts of joy!



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