Saturday, May 27, 2017


There’s waiting, and then there’s waiting.

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews…” (Jn 20:19).

Picture the twelve apostles on the first Easter Sunday evening, back in the upper room, hiding behind locked doors, terrified that the authorities were about to come and arrest them for being followers of Jesus. They stared anxiously at the door, sneaking glances at one another, expecting at any moment to hear the fateful knock that would mean arrest, torture and death. The hours passed, the atmosphere grew more and more tense, and everyone’s nerves were on edge. The suspense became unbearable.

That’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the hammer to fall. It can numb you into inaction, immobilize you like a snake’s venom, blind you like a Los Angeles smog. It’s fear of some phantom-like disaster that may be lurking just around the corner.

But, that was not the only kind of waiting the disciples did in the New Testament. Consider these verses from Acts:


He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.  …. you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ….  Then they returned to Jerusalem …. (Acts 1:3-12 passim)
Picture the twelve apostles on the first Ascension Thursday evening, back in the same upper room, waiting. This time, however, they are not waiting in fear but in “joyful hope for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” They are praying together, and sharing their amazement at what they had just seen and heard. “Wait in the city …  In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

This is the “Can’t wait!” kind of waiting. It’s kids-on-Christmas-Eve kind of waiting.

What made the disciples change so radically their way of waiting? How did they switch so completely from “waiting for the other shoe to drop” to an attitude of “Can’t wait?” What happened to them in between was this: They encountered the risen Christ.

In the first passage above, they didn’t know that the Lord had risen from the dead, and so the future was a threat. In the second passage, they have met the risen Jesus a couple of times, maybe more, and so the future was changed from a threat into a promise.

We can meet Jesus in prayer, in the sacraments, in the words of scripture, in the person of the people around us. The more often and the more deeply we encounter him, the more our own sense of the future can be transformed from a threat into a promise.

For eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

"Go and wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Spirit"

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