The lectionary readings for this seventh Sunday of Easter find us between an ending and a new beginning and we, in the same manner as the disciples, need to be willing to sit in this empty space, reflecting on what has been and waiting for the movement of the Spirit to call us once again to a courageous future.
In the first reading (Acts 1: 12-14) we find the apostles trudging back to Jerusalem after having received “the Great Commission” from Jesus. He had finished his mission and passed on to them what was now theirs to do: to go out to the world and teach what he had first taught them. So today they are together again as they were after the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Was it the same “upper room” where they had huddled in fear for their lives? What were they feeling now? Fearful still, perhaps, without the certainty now that they would be safe going forward. Bereft, most likely, because they were again without the presence of Jesus for their strength. But at least they were together in the company of those who had experienced Jesus in what we would certainly call a privileged way. And together they were praying for the Spirit of God to come and reveal to them the manner in which they were to fulfill their mission.
In the gospel for today we have a glimpse of this ending from the perspective of Jesus. John’s Gospel (17: 1-11) could seem like a son reporting to his father his completion of a project – for school, maybe – by recounting all the steps he had taken and how successful the whole enterprise had been. This scene, however, was much more. Jesus was just on the cusp of leaving those he loved, that small band of followers who had listened to him, learned from him, supported him and sometimes disappointed him, but loved him enough to stay with him through death to new life. His care for and pride in these beloved ones is clear in his recounting to God. Consider your feelings if you had overheard Jesus saying to God: They belonged to you and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word…I pray for them. What a validation of their discipleship! Moreover, these lines seem to express a deep tenderness in which Jesus holds those he called his friends.
Let us take some time in these days between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost to sit in this space of emptiness, preparing for a renewed outpouring of the Spirit in our lives and remembering that Jesus promises to us as he did his disciples: I am with you always, until the end of the age.