“As the Father has loved me, so I also love you. Remain in my love” (John 15:9).
The story moves quickly and decisively as we approach the crucial hand-off from Jesus to his disciples (and to us). Liturgically, the interval between the Ascension and Pentecost is fraught with tension and promise. There is no Plan B. Either the disciples will take up the mission of Jesus after his departure or they will not. The Holy Spirit will enter them only if they are open, for their freedom, like the freedom Mary had at the first Incarnation, is necessary, for God proposes rather than imposes the divine plan.
The Buddha says, “Leap, and the bridge will appear.” Every pregnant woman begins the birthing process knowing that pain and uncertainty are part of the moment that will yield the child she has carried from conception. The disciples gather behind closed doors to pray and, for 10 days, they experience their utter inadequacy and powerlessness to accomplish anything. But it is their emptiness that welcomes the Spirit. It is the depth of their longing that will determine the size of the space that receives the gift God can give them.
In every life crisis, whether it is a major decision or some transition from old to new, we are reduced to that single narrow passage. Yes or no, go or stay, risk everything or choose security. But act freely and take full responsibility, because you cannot stay here any longer. Go forward or hunker down. Create the future you want or accept the limits circumstances have defined for you. The Gospel is always about liberation.
The one constant that makes change possible is the promise that love never departs. Jesus prepares his disciples for passage through death to new life by telling them to remain in his love. If they trust that love, they will survive and grow.
Jesus, in bodily form, hovers between time and eternity, then disappears. But his love remains, like a seed planted in his followers, whose lives will nourish and become the next bodily manifestation of his presence in the world. We are that body of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit. If we say yes. For if conception occurs, birth will follow. Every hope, dream and holy metaphor converges on us and our response: “May it be done unto us according to your Word.”