May 17, 2023, 6:00 AM

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” When [Jesus] had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Acts 1:8-9

St. Francis was focused with his spirit on the time between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost (or the outpouring of the Holy Spirit). Few people today commemorate the Ascension of Jesus into heaven or know what it means. Fewer still are aware of the implications of Pentecost. Virtually no one can ascribe a significant meaning to the ten-day period between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost.

There are books filled with descriptions of Jesus ascending to heaven in a cloud of mist in front of his followers. Many authors assert the Ascension as a necessity to create a cover story as to why no one found Jesus' body. Jesus arose and then disappeared in a very clandestine way. Others interpret the story as a fictitious narrative that adds to the supernatural power of Jesus.

Despite the numerous interpretations and “misinterpretations” of the Ascension story, the power of the story actually lies in the days between the Ascension and Pentecost. Imagine your best friend dying. You are struck with severe grief and loss. Your stomach aches and tears flow like they will never cease.

Now further imagine that person coming back to life and seeing you again. Would your sorrow not be turned into joy? Out of love would you not want to spend as much time as you could with that person? This was the scenario that the disciples experienced – unfathomable joy, constant love, and, more importantly, an ever-persistent clinging to Jesus for instruction and guidance. For his followers, Jesus was the expert who also conquered death.

Jesus staying on earth, however, would never have fulfilled God’s ongoing pronouncement of new life to the rest of creation. He needed to leave. At the same time, he needed to have his followers see that THEY would be the ones (not Jesus) to share the Good News. This transition was a ten-day period of emotional turmoil, disbelief, loss, and sorrow. The days were filled with prayer – literally hours and hours of prayer.

Like contemplative prayer, every thought of what had happened, what was happening, and what might happen dissipated. Thinking ceased and hearts were opened. It became a time of receptivity – a time to receive something that was initially unimaginable (i.e., the power of God welling up within them and not simply a power possessed by Jesus). The outpouring of God’s Spirit would never have occurred without a time of waiting in prayer after the ascension of Jesus. In the act of waiting, nothing was left inside of the followers except a total openness to God and God’s will.

For us, we also experience minor and major losses that create times for waiting. We wait for kids to return from school. We wait for the return of planes that carry loved ones. We wait for healing after a trauma. We wait between the time a person dies and when we begin to recover from the loss.

All of these events that we experience, and others, are times of waiting just as the followers of Jesus waited. These waiting events mark the episodes between ascension and the outpouring of God’s Spirit that occur again and again in our lives. Waiting has the great potential for opening ourselves to God’s Spirit that always comes to a receptive heart.

Wait times are God’s way of saying, “PRAY.”

Peace and Blessings,

Fr. John