“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). Our Lord spoke those words to His Apostles as He prepared to enter His Passion. They had protested that they understood Him and that they were convinced He knew everything (cf. John 16:29). Our Lord wanted them to realize that while they might have this confidence, “Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone” (John 16:32). However, they are not to be discouraged or despairing. “I am not alone” and “the Father is with me” (John 16:32), He says reassuringly. They will have troubles, but they must also be filled with courage. Jesus Christ has conquered the world.
The world? There is that word again. Our Lord is not speaking of the world of beauty and God’s creation. He is referring to the world of corruption, lies, deception, a mean and angry world that has no tolerance for truth, the dignity of the human person, and justice. This is the world of sinful humans, created by selfishness and the pursuit of unbridled pleasure. It does not care whose lives it destroys and what sufferings it inflicts. How many abandoned and forlorn have suffered through these vicissitudes and longed to hear those words, “I have conquered the world”?
Persecuted Christians down through the ages have taken deep consolation from that promise. In sharing Christ’s suffering, in joining their own to His, they came to understand that, in spite of seeming failure and what appeared to be the victory of evil over good, Jesus Christ had conquered the world and they were part of His victory. “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).