The lectionary readings on this day (Feast of the Ascension) when we consider the completion of Christ’s mission on earth are among the most familiar of the Church year. What then can be said that does not sound prosaic but rather at least interesting at such an important moment? Although the events of this day were likely earth-shattering for the apostles, of course, I wonder if the important lines that we read are not about what happened on that day but rather appear as two brief directives that move us toward what involved a preparation on the part of the apostles.
In the first reading (Act of the Apostles 1:1-11) after recounting the events of the past 40 days, Jesus “enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait…” Then in the last reading from the gospel (Luke, 24), Jesus directed them to “stay in the city…” In both cases, they were waiting “for the promise of the Father.” How could they possibly know what was ahead for them?
Wait, he said. Stay. For most of us, waiting is not the easiest task. Nor, I would be willing to wager, was it so for these friends of Jesus who had been with him in good times and bad and now, at his departure from the earth, must have been thrown back into a place of not knowing once again. But wait they did, going back into an upper room, perhaps the best symbol of encounter in the events of all their time together.
Have you ever waited for something, not knowing exactly what you were waiting for or what the outcome of your waiting would engender? Maybe you were told Christmas would bring you a great gift this year…or, as an opposing thought, perhaps you have heard a weather report of an impending storm and are waiting for the outcome. How is it possible in either of these situations to wait with some modicum of patience?
Waiting for God to speak can also take patience. Hunkering down in stillness to hear “the still small voice of God” takes practice and perseverance. Maybe you are waiting for courage or the answer to a burning question or simply to know that God considers you a “beloved one” each and every day.
As we wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit once again at Pentecost, may we recall the words of Jesus who said at his departure from this world and who promises to us: “I am with you always, until the end of the world.”