April 27, 2007

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Pain, anguish lead to new life

I ordinarily shy away from broad generalizations regarding gender. Not all “men are from Mars,” and not all “women are from Venus.”

But I do acknowledge that there are some behaviors that are more prominent in one gender than the other.

One that I and other men have experienced is that when things are wrong, we try to make them right. We try to fix things.

One interesting thing about this trait is that it’s present even in men like me, who don’t seem to have a mechanical bone in their bodies.

I’ve been thinking about this tendency because in about a week, my wife, Cindy, will give birth to our third child.

When she goes into labor, I will be by her side to give her emotional support. I will help her breath in rhythm. But I can do nothing to take away her pain.

The saving grace in all of this for me, but much more so for Cindy, is that, God willing, the pain will bring about an unspeakable joy when our baby has been born.

In some mysterious way, God has allowed that the cure for the pain of childbirth comes about through the process itself.

But our first parents also played a part in bringing about this reality for we read in the Bible that the pain of giving birth is a result of original sin. After discovering the sin of Adam and Eve, God said to Eve, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children” (Gn 3:16).

Yet this is thankfully not the end of the story. For in this season of Easter, it’s good for us to recall Jesus’ words to his disciples on the night before he died:

“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (Jn 16:21-22).

The introduction of pain into childbirth in the beginning was an effect of sin. But Jesus spoke of that same pain to point to our redemption.

Mary, John and the other women who witnessed the Crucifixion must surely have felt a great pain in their hearts as they watched Jesus’ suffering and death.

Perhaps it can be likened to the anguish that husbands like me feel when they see their wives cry out in pain during labor.

But, of course, the agony born by those who stood at the foot of the cross was nothing in comparison to what Jesus himself endured.

All of this pain—that experienced by the witnesses of Jesus’ death and that born by Jesus himself—was forgotten when he stepped forth gloriously from the tomb.

Jesus’ resurrection was, in a manner of speaking, a birth. It was a birth into a new and unending life that came through the labor pains of the cross. And since Jesus shared all the pain that any human can experience, he allowed us to eventually be born into eternal life as well. †

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