Imagine the emotional turmoil inside the disciples.
First he was here. Then he was gone. Then he was here again. And then he was gone for good. Jesus.
• “First he was here. Then he was gone.” They had lived with Jesus in his public life and they loved it. They thought it would last forever. Not so. Abruptly he was gone. They were not at all prepared for the enormity of his torture and killing, the destruction of their lives, of their friend and their Lord.
Gone, gone, gone, gone.
• “Then he was here again.” We know how difficult his resurrection was for the apostles. They doubted it and rejected it, even as the women welcomed it with full hearts. He appeared many times and kindly helped his followers to accept the fact that he was alive again.
• “And then he was gone for good.” When they had gotten used to his new presence, guess what. The Ascension took place. This presented the obvious question. Does the story really end with Jesus being “gone, gone, gone,” ascended to heaven? The point of God's taking flesh had been to show how completely present he is to us always, living in our material world. So has he now absented himself forever? Are we back to where we started?
You and I must look for the answer, because it contains the entire Christian reality. We can do it using the readings for this Sunday.
Look upon the First Reading as a continuation of Jesus’ frequent talks about how he will send the Holy Spirit to us (Paraclete, Teacher, Comforter), after he has ascended to the Father. All who believe and who open their hearts will receive the Spirit.
Stay with this line of reasoning.
What is the Spirit? Is it simply a dose of “grace” that we earn or receive in order to be holy? Or that Jesus and the Father sent to give us a break? Or a “help”? Or some kind of power coming from God?
Listen well: the Holy Spirit is all of these and none of these. The Spirit is:
Not just a representative of God, not just a descending dove, not even just a point of fire over our heads. It is the complete, true reality of God. And it is marked forever by Jesus' entire life, death and resurrection.
This Spirit quietly makes us able to say yes to faith. Not by brutalizing us or overriding us. The Second Reading and the Gospel are all about what I call “respectful love.” I define respectful love as that love which never over-powers us but always respects our choice(s). Rather than a dictator, the Spirit wants to be a companion in our lives, esteeming our being, not contradicting it, bringing out what is most truly our own self.
So Jesus is with us by means of the presence of his Spirit in us.
He hopes we will accept his offer of this Spirit. If we do, our souls mingle with God's own reality and we become new flesh for the incarnate God.
This is called the mystical body of Christ on earth.
Your reply? Well great, but why am I so weak in belief, so far from Christ, so prone to sin? This Holy Spirit must be pretty anemic.
No, and again, here is the reason.
The Spirit always waits, waits, waits for us to open to Jesus’ life. Jesus is not gone, he is inside us, knocking at our inner door. We can say no. But we can also say yes with our lives.
Through respectful love.