Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It was also the day that the Church in North America celebrates the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. The irony of these often concurrent events is that the message of the weekend’s scripture selections and the message my mother perennially attempts to impart on me are the same – stay put.
After spending time with the risen Jesus, whose crucifixion and very real death and burial they had witnessed personally, the Apostles were excited about the prospects for the repressed cultural minority to which they belonged. At one time the nation of Israel was a force to be feared and revered, but at the time of the Gospel, the Hebrews were little more than just another troublesome sect crushed under the foot of mighty Rome. But if their beloved Jesus could defy even death, surely He could and would restore God’s chosen people to their former glory.
Jesus’ response to them was twofold and probably not what they wanted to hear. First, He said, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons that the Father has established by His own authority. But you (emphasis mine) will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
The power Christ promises just before He leaves them is not the power to change political structures or institute utopia on earth. It is a power promised to each one of the Apostles (and each one of us) personally. Although it is not described in yesterday’s readings, it has been touched upon in the other Easter Gospels. The power is the peace of Christ. Not world peace. Inner peace. There is nothing more powerful on earth, as it is in heaven.
But in order to receive this peace, we must follow Jesus’ direction to His Apostles. Stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes.
What does it mean to stay in Jerusalem? For the Apostles, it was a place of conflict, corruption, and crucifixion. It was also a place of hope, joy and miracles. It was a place of upper rooms – of suppers shared with friends, of doors locked in fear, of foreshadowing and revelation.
Each of us has our own Jerusalem, a place of earthly contradiction and spiritual paradox, of death and resurrection. And like most earth-bound beings, we don’t feel comfortable staying in such a place for very long. I may be able to accept the fullness of my Jerusalem for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. But while I’m there, I’m longing for God to redeem and make everything the way it “should” be, or rather, the way I think it should be. And when that doesn’t happen on my time schedule, my instincts tell me to move on, now.
Yet Jesus told the Apostles to wait. And he gave them no indication about how long.
The mother figures in my life are continually telling me to do the same. The woman who gave birth to me is forever encouraging me to think twice, nay, three times, before taking action. I don’t like it one bit, but the Bible tells me to honor my mother, so I swallow my pride. I know her prayer for me is not unlike the prayer Paul had for the early Church at Ephesus – wisdom and enlightenment.
I have other mother figures whose wisdom and enlightenment I trust. And they, too, tell me to wait. To sit with my feelings. When I ask how long, they tell me I will “know” when the time is right.
In the mean time, I am called to do what the Apostles did after they watched their savior float away. They “returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.” I don’t plan to follow that literally. However, my body, mind and spirit is the temple I tend. I need to sit with myself and praise God with every small act of love toward myself. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for, but it promises to be more than I could ever imagine.