As we get close to the end of the Easter Season, our readings take a turn towards the Ascension of Jesus and then to Pentecost. On this day in many places around the world, the feast of the Ascension is celebrated. Our readings for today offer a taste of the impending feasts that we will celebrate over the next few Sundays before we once again have Ordinary time. I have always loved this time of the year when our first reading is always taken from the Acts of the Apostles. We are treated to many stories of perseverance in the early Church. I think if they could speak to us, they might suggest that there was nothing ordinary about their struggle, either. Today’s Gospel offers us an insight into what the early Church understood about seeing Jesus again. Even, Paul was preaching that Jesus was coming back again and he was certain that he would have the whole Mediterranean world converted to Jesus. He worked diligently towards that goal. Jesus’ comments about “a little while” have now stretched to two millennia.
This past Mother’s Day we were able to come together as a family for brunch. When our granddaughter, Cate, arrived and heard that her younger cousins Alice and Bridget were planning on joining us as well, she broke into tears. She was so joyful having missed her cousins since the shutdown. Today’s Gospel reminds me of this reunion, and I imagine a lot of people missed their family members over the past fifteen months. When the shutdown began, most of us thought it would not last this long—at least here in California. We kept thinking, “just a little longer” and things were sure to clear up and we could all get back to “normal.” We have all been affected in some ways, including children. So much perseverance, even on the part of children and parents. They have spent almost a year on Zoom with lessons. It was hard for Cate to understand why she could not get to see her cousins; the little girls have added a new phrase into their language, “before the virus.” Those times in the past when we gathered to celebrate special times had to be put on hold for everyone’s safety. It was all so confusing to children and not at all ordinary.
In the Gospel, today, the disciples seem equally confused, having no context to understand Jesus’ words. As usual in the Gospels, the disciples seem not to understand what Jesus was saying. They simply had to wait in hope and trust, until they would see him.
I think the readings for today offer us the idea of perseverance. Paul is working diligently, daily for the church. Can you imagine running into Paul in those days? When Timothy and Silas arrived from Macedonia, he doubles down in his efforts to convert the Jews in Corinth to Jesus, and he finally gives up trying to get “his people” as he will mention in another letter. Sometimes it is necessary to know when enough is enough and in the Scripture today, Paul walks away with a clear conscience and for the rest of his life, he ministers to “the Gentiles.”(v.6.) He still ministers to us today, through sacred Scriptures. He shares that message with us. I wonder did he think his words would live on and bring consolation, conversion, and nourishment to so many people?
Amazing, the strength, wisdom, and power of the Holy Spirit. We are not alone in our ministry labors. Come Holy Spirit and fill the earth with your presence. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.