These eleven had spent the last three years with Jesus. They saw miracles of all kinds and even saw Jesus raise people from the dead. They ate the meal when he multiplied loaves and fishes. Three were with him on Mt. Tabor when he was transfigured before them and spoke with Moses and Elijah. They knew his crucifixion and his resurrection and had spent most of the last forty days with him in their midst. He did not accompany them to Galilee, but met up with them there. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted (Mt 28:17). Wait. What?!
That line . . . but they doubted . . . from today’s Gospel hit me hard in my spot reserved for indignation. Once I had calmed down enough to try to think it through, I began to have an inkling of what it must have been like for those early followers of Jesus. They must have had both guilt and PTSD from the trial and crucifixion of Jesus – guilt from running away and PTSD from watching the horrific events from a distance, hearing the call for Barabbas and the jeering of the crowds as Jesus walked to Calvary. Even meeting up with Jesus so often during the last forty days had been hard. It must have been hard to get over the guilt and accept forgiveness. Plus, Jesus looked different every time they saw him. They had begun to look for the nail marks in his hands and feet . . . just to be sure. So now he was giving them his final instructions, and they still didn’t understand what his life, death, and resurrection had been about: Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6). My indignation meter shot up again. After all this, they still didn’t get it.
Jesus, however, did not get angry, indignant, or frustrated . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth. It began to dawn on me that I was more like those apostles than I cared to admit. I am a baptized Catholic, who was blessed to experience an outpouring of the Holy Spirit more than fifty years ago. And do I ever doubt? Sadly, yes. Did I always respond to my children the way that Jesus replied to the apostles? Sadly, no. Do I wait patiently for the Lord to reveal his plan to me, or do I keep asking if now is the time? Okay. I can be impatient, even with Jesus.
One truth is clear for the apostles, however. Jesus told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father—to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. That’s what they would need to spread the Good News. That’s what they would need to live, act, speak, and love like Jesus. That’s why Jesus was going to the Father—so that they could receive his Spirit.
Next week we will celebrate that gift from the Father that empowered the apostles. Let us pray that we, too, can receive more of the Holy Spirit to be empowered for our vocation, so that we can live, act, speak, and love more like Jesus.
Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle within us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and our hearts will be created . . . and you will renew the face of the earth.