“I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Here we are in the last days of the Easter season, and the Church gives us readings to prepare us for two different things. We prepare for our life as his disciples and we prepare for his return. With a spirit of wisdom and revelation, our hearts are enlightened about what we are supposed to do with the time on earth we are given. And we can do that work confident in ultimate success because Jesus has asked the Father to send us an Advocate and comforter.
In his priestly prayer to the Father just before his Passion, Jesus says, “Now I will no longer be in the world, but my disciples are in the world.” Though Jesus has ascended to his heavenly throne, the Holy Spirit will remain in the world with us and guide us and protect us as we follow our Lord and Savior. As we prepare for his return.
Now we have a period of quiet – the last week of the Easter season – before the Holy Spirit will come to guide and protect the church founded by Jesus Christ. This is the Advocate, the paraclete, that Jesus talked about before his Passion. So the disciples spend a few days in quiet reflection, absorbing the gift of the resurrection before being empowered for the work of ministry.
This time of quiet is between a period of receiving an astounding gift – one really beyond all imagining – and entering an extended period of living in a culture that does not acknowledge the gift. The gift we received in Easter is the triumph over sin and eternal death. The disciples needed weeks of seeing that Jesus was resurrected in body as well in spirit. He was no phantasm, as he proved by eating fish and bread and asking Thomas to touch his side and see the marks of the nails in his hands. He made himself visible to hundreds of witnesses – too many for it to be a story concocted by grief-stricken disciples so they could make sense of the years they spent following this rabbi. And today they watched him ascend under his own power to his kingly seat at the right hand of the Father.
Today at Mass, we have the same phenomenon. After the prayers of the faithful, Father will offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in the liturgy of the Eucharist. This is an astounding gift – just like the one at Easter – that God will make himself fully present in bread and wine. God, who is beyond time and space, will come down in love to make himself available to us in such a way that we take him into ourselves. We are going to eat his body and drink his blood, just as he told us to do.
The quiet time and prayer after communion is like the days between the Ascension and Pentecost. It is time for us to ruminate on the astounding gift we just received. God did not give us the gift of the Eucharist for no purpose. Just as he will send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to the Church, he will send us somewhere to do something. During the silence after communion, we should be praying for guidance for our mission just as the apostles were praying for guidance after the Ascension.
After Mass, we will in our own lives be where the Church was after Pentecost. Ordinary Time, our regular routines, where we are just living each day picking them up and setting them down. Ordinary does not mean plain, it means counting them up. We spend our childhood counting up the years in school, and then as adults we start counting up the years in work. We spend a lot of time in these periods of routine.
What are we to do during them? What was the Church supposed to do after Jesus ascended? He said they were to go out and make disciples of all nations and all peoples. And how are they to do that? Some preaching, yes, but mostly by being living examples of the life of Christ. Christ taught them to love others as he had loved them, so they learned to turn the other cheek and to pray for those who persecuted them. The Roman Empire kept persecuting them for another 300 years. We should remember it takes determination and time to change a culture.
That is what we are supposed to do with our ordinary time. We have been renewed in the Mass. After Mass is over, we are not supposed to put the top back on the box of our religion, we are supposed to share our religion with the world. How? Some preaching, yes, but mostly by being living examples of the life of Christ. We all have our daily routines, our ordinary time. We are supposed to infect those routines with the spirit of the gospel and make them something to treasure rather than just count up.
Do you remember the child’s story about the king’s competition for who would marry his daughter the beautiful princess? All you had to do was jump up to the top of the wall of the castle. After all the superstars tried and failed to leap to the top, one smart kid hopped up each step of the staircase. He got the girl. Just try baby steps. Don’t do more than you can do. But don’t sell yourself short. You can do something.
Next week at Pentecost, those frightened bumbling Apostles are going to be transformed by the Holy Spirit into St. Peter and St. Stephen and other powerful evangelists. They are going to be able to speak truth to power and to heal the sick and to remain patient and persevere through trials and suffering.
In our own way, in our time, all of us can do likewise. We can do what they did if we prepare the way they prepared. Like the disciples after the Ascension, we can use quiet times to talk to God our Father and listen to God the Holy Spirit.
He will guide us and protect us always, even to the end of the age.