As Jesus prepared for his passion and death, he consoled his grief-stricken disciples. He promised them that when he ascended to the Father, the Spirit would be sent to comfort and empower them.
But what did Jesus mean when he said to them "None of you asks me: ‘where are you going?’ Both Peter and Thomas had asked that question. What did Jesus mean?
This passage took me back to Japan, to Ikeda and Mefu, cities my wife and I had recently visited. The Passionists have a parish church and kindergarten school in Ikeda, and a retreat in Mefu. They have been there since 1957. And yet, despite their tireless work, the numbers of Catholics there have increased painfully slowly. It appears the numbers may actually be declining. And of the 178 children in the school, only 10 percent are Catholic. I am embarrassed to admit that for a moment I thought that our presence there may have been for nothing.
One of the Passionists, one of the first to arrive so long ago, interrupted my thought, however. This aging and saintly man said to me with a confident voice: "We are doing missionary work."
As I remember his response, I understand what Jesus meant. Like Peter and Thomas, I was asking the wrong question. My question had less to do with Jesus and more with my own concerns. I was concerned about immediate needs, about fears of failure, about uprooting good men and sending them to a far away country to learn a new culture and language, and about the apparent futility of their efforts.
But, Like Jesus, this Passionist knew why he went. He was focused on the Kingdom and proclaiming the Good News. He had no fears. The Gospel is moving forward and the Advocate, the Holy Spirit is doing a great and mighty work. Through these faithful Passionists, the Advocate is doing "missionary work."
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.