7th Sunday of Easter
May 24, 2020
The context for today’s gospel passage from Saint John once again is the Last Supper. After he shares his final teachings with his disciples before the events of his passion begin, Jesus prays to his Father in heaven. He prays first that he will bring to completion the work entrusted to him by his Father. Then he prays for his disciples that they may faithfully proclaim the word that he entrusted to them.
That’s Jesus prayer on the night before he died. Now fast forward a bit to our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles. In this passage, we encounter the apostles as they returned from the Mount of Olivet after Jesus ascended into heaven. They gathered in the upper room with some women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, where they prayed … and they waited. They waited for the sending forth of the Holy Spirit who would enable them to go forth to begin their new lives and to build the Church – the People of God.
The closest followers of Jesus along with Mary, his mother, remained in the upper room and waited.
Sounds like a page from our lives these days, doesn’t it? Yet, I wonder if Jesus’ disciples maintained the same attitude that so many of us seem to have these days? … For most of us, this time of waiting is a bit frustrating, isn’t it? Nobody likes to wait. We don’t like waiting in lines – or in traffic – or when we’re put on hold during a phone conversation. And we don’t like waiting in our homes for well over two months. We feel so helpless, don’t we? We want to get back to work. We want to get our hair cut. We want to be able to visit with one another. We want to be able to worship in our churches once again in safety. … We want our lives back again – now! … But we still have to wait.
It’s seems rather providential that we’re given these scripture passages today to reflect upon as we struggle to move forward in the midst of a very challenging world. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles, as matter-of-fact as it may seem, gives us some important insights that we’d do well to consider as we continue to wait for life to begin again.
All the passage says is that those who gathered – the apostles, some women and Mary – devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. … They drew support from one another. They laughed and cried as they reflected upon Jesus and their lives with him and now with each other. They shared their hopes and dreams. They wondered what life would demand of them as they moved prepared to move forward. … And they prayed. … There’s no indication that they were bitter or angry or critical of why they were waiting. … They simply opened their hearts to God and allowed God to speak to them in and through each other.
In that moment of waiting, they began to understand how God would work in their lives, so that when the Holy Spirit finally came on the day of Pentecost, they would boldly go forth to live Jesus’ Gospel and build the Church – build the Kingdom of God. They came to believe that it was in and through the very lives of those of them who were gathered in faith and prayer in that upper room that God would be present to the world – that the Word of God would be proclaimed – and that the Eucharist, the very life of God in Jesus, would be celebrated.
In other words, through their time of waiting, they came to understand that they were baptized not into some solitary relationship with God. No, they were baptized into a community of believers through whom God would be present and would work his mighty deeds.
Brothers and sisters, while every one of us wants our time of waiting to end sooner than later, I hope and pray that we have learned something about ourselves and God. … For all of our desire to return to our churches, I hope we’ve learned that God’s not waiting in our churches for us to return. No – God has been and continues to walk with us every day of these difficult months. … But I hope we’ve also learned that in our longing to return to our churches, we’ve come to understand just how much we need the Eucharist and the sacramental life – and just how much we need one another in order to fully experience the depth of our faith and to celebrate our lives as Christians.
The apostles learned a great deal from their time of waiting in the upper room. So can we, if we give God some space in our lives these days and listen with care to what he speaks to our heart. … And no different than the apostles, when we’re finally given the opportunity to leave our “upper rooms,” God’s grace will enable us to continue the work of building the Kingdom of God and a world of peace.