Did you ever wonder about those disciples? Yes, THOSE disciples, the ones who were privileged enough to be with Jesus night and day for three whole years! Although it is recorded that they learned faith, displayed courage and did their best to follow in the Master’s footsteps there are still some glaring curiosities about their behavior. As much as those guys learned we still read about incidents that make one just “shake their head”. Incidents like; the time they asked how come their miracles “didn’t work” or the time that they said they didn’t “get” the parables or the time that they woke Him to tell Him they needed to be saved from the storm or the time they didn’t believe the first witness to the resurrection or when they did not realize that he was actually walking next to them on the road. How is it that you can be soaked in the presence of God for three continuous years and still ask those crazy questions or remind Him that you need to be saved right now? During the Storm on Galilee they actually accused him of not caring about them! Yikes!
I think that there is a logical explanation to this craziness that actually comes from some later information in the bible. In the accounting of the Ascension we know that Jesus’ parting words cautioned the disciples to stay holed up in the city until they are imparted with a final “power from on high”. The statement smacks of mystery and implies that they did not have all of the tools which they will be needing to carry the ministry forward. That’s exactly what Jesus meant! Days later, Pentecost occurred in the closed room where they had been waiting as per their final instructions.
It is clear that during Jesus’ time on earth he was “multitasking”. He implemented the word of the Father. He brought the message of love and salvation to as many as he could. He healed those who asked. He raised the dead. He converted non-believers. He brought the corrupt leadership to task. Last, but not least, he was clearly grooming his disciples as the leadership for the job of establishing a world-wide church after his departure. This was to be a church that was clearly a fulfillment of the Father’s will and completion of the promise he made to His “chosen” centuries ago. This is witnessed by the scriptures which relate that the disciples quickly met in counsel to establish a twelfth disciple after Judas departure. The number twelve is the ultimate reflection of the Father’s promise and connection to the original tribes of Israel. In his wisdom Jesus knew that even though his time on earth was coming to a close, his leadership council would remain, but they were not ready to lead. Leadership is a funny thing; it is not something that you simply confer on a person. Leadership must be learned through trial and error and a willingness to hear things in a way that you never did before. It is a process that takes time. A wise and matured leader will come upon information that they never imagine existed and sometimes find hard to assimilate. The talent in the leader is what they do with the information. Jesus understood that process and even tells his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:12) Jesus knew that the disciples did not yet posses the maturity and listening ear that they needed, so he told them to wait for additional help. “Words had no effect on the apostles until they received the gifts.” (Blessed Guerric of Igny † 1157, abbot and friend of St. Bernard) This is obvious when we think about the incidents cited above and see that there are occasions when even the disciples themselves admitted that they did not “get” what Jesus said.
Somehow, in the aftermath of the crucifixion, Jesus’ appearances and the ascension, the apostles experienced a transformation that did not occur while Jesus was present with them. Remember that many of them decided to go back to fishing and some even left town to get away and go to Emmaus. But they then gathered, at the Master’s instruction, and “something” happened. The time that they spent with Jesus was all “incarnate”; hearing, seeing, touching, eating, sleeping, walking, talking. All experiences of the body. But after Jesus departed the physical was no longer possible and his ministry to them was directed at the spirit. As we have experienced for ourselves, the immediate demands of the body can be a distraction that can lead us to completely forget the spirit. Jesus knew, though, that when he was finally absent from the disciples they would be forced to function on their own, in body as well as in spirit.
Although He knew that he would not be there to mentor his apostles any longer he tells them that his departure will be good for them because his leaving and ascension to the Father completes his mission and final glorification (Jn 16:7). His complete fulfillment of the task the Father gave him now empowers him to release the Spirit and send the Paraclete to assist the disciples. This is the action of a mentor who has “vision” that extends far past what his followers ever imagined. Sometimes you have to throw the fledglings out of the nest in order to get them to fly!
Jesus also knew the one weakness that all the disciples demonstrated could do them in; "The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusaslem. and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those ho followed were afraid." (Mk 10: 32-33) “Fear is one of the great tactics by which evil tries to prevent the good from speaking out or acting with integrity according to their Christian commitment. It was a constant threat to the early Christians. On the day before Pentecost, we remember especially that Mary strengthened the early Christian community in their courage by praying with them….” (Magnificat, vol.12, No.3, May 2010, p. 302) It is interesting to note that after the day of Pentecost, not one incident of a disciple becoming apostate because they were afraid is recorded in scripture. So the sending of the Holy Spirit has much broader implications than simply a “nice feast day”, or a sign that Jesus’ mission was finished, or the fact that the gathered disciples spoke a different language on that day. Rather, it is the recollection, in the Church calendar, that we believers, all of us, now have all the tools!
Before Jesus died the Spirit was not permitted to assume a presence in the disciples. They had other things to consider and Jesus tells them himself that they are not ready (see above, Jn 16). But with Pentecost, the weapons of war are complete. We have everything we need. Our understanding and ability to stand for the Kingdom in truth and courage is complete. As believers and followers of Jesus we are now expected to take up the tools that have been given to us and go forward into battle with the forces of evil in the world. The descent of the Holy Spirit was not something “reserved” for the disciples, Mary and the women present. The Spirit was a gift for the entire Church. That’s us, you and me! This does not necessarily mean that each of us is meant to become a Catholic televangelist, or a nun or priest, or take up a vocation in a third order. But it does mean that each of us is charged with standing in truth for the cause of the Lord Jesus. Do you defend the Church when you are in the presence of detractors? Do you gracefully correct misinformation about the Faith when you hear it spoken? Do you openly stand in truth and love when you hear someone express hate about the Church or the Pope? Do you speak encouragement and truth when you hear someone say that religion is silly or useless? Do you openly tell the story when God has graced you or given you a miracle? We have all been given the miraculous Gift of the Spirit. We are expected employ his help with regularity, just like the disciples. Do you? It’s all a matter of understanding exactly who you are.
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Copyright©2010, Pentecost, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
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