Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why 10 Days?

(Ascension Thursday 2010: This homily was given on May 13, 2010 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Acts 1: 1-14; Luke 24: 46-53.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Ascension Thursday 2010]

Why 10 days?

Why did Jesus wait 10 days after his ascension before he sent the Holy Spirit to his apostles and to the other disciples who were gathered together in the Upper Room?

He could have sent them the Spirit immediately after he ascended, while they were still standing there looking up at the sky.

But he didn’t. He let them wait for well over a week.

Now Jesus Christ never acted without a good reason, so there must have been a reason—or a series of reasons—why he chose to conduct himself in this fashion.

So what was it?

Well, the bad news is that we can’t know the answer to that question with absolute certitude!

But we can certainly venture an educated guess or two—which is what I will do very briefly today in this homily. I do this, incidentally, not because I enjoy speculating about things that we can’t know for sure, but rather because I think what the disciples experienced in those 10 days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday relates to what we often experience in our relationship with God today.

For example, one possible reason why Jesus delayed his sending of the Spirit was to teach his disciples the importance of praying with perseverance. Jesus had promised to send them a gift—a gift that would guide them to all truth; a gift that would give them strength and help and healing in their lives. But they needed to pray for that gift perseveringly in the Upper Room, and not give up after a few hours, or even a few days.

We need to do the same thing, if we want to receive all the blessings God has for us in our lives. As most of us know, the Lord has made some blessings conditional here on earth. We won’t get them if we don’t ask—and ask with perseverance, like these pre-Pentecost disciples.

Another possible reason why Jesus delayed his sending of the Spirit was to teach his disciples that God was in control, not them. God would act when he was ready, not before.

We need to learn the same lesson in our lives. A lot of people these days want God to be their personal “puppet”—when they “pull the strings,” so to speak, they expect him to act immediately and do exactly what they want him to do.

But that’s not the way it works—as these disciples found out.

Perhaps Jesus delayed his sending of the Spirit to teach his disciples that they needed to be patient. (I don’t think I need to elaborate on how that relates to us and our lives.)

Maybe he delayed the Pentecost event to teach them the importance of communal prayer: that there’s great power present when believers come together to pray as a body (like we do here at Mass). Remember, the disciples went back to the Upper Room after the Ascension and spent a lot of time there as a group during the next 10 days. The only other place they spent a lot of time was in the Temple (as we heard in today’s Gospel text from Luke 24). But even in the Temple they were praying. As it says there, they were “continually in the Temple praising God”.

Maybe Jesus didn’t send the Spirit right away to teach his followers the importance of making novenas! As I’ve mentioned in other homilies, the first novena ever made was made by Mary and the apostles between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost. It was, in effect, a novena to the Holy Spirit.

Or maybe Jesus delayed the sending of the Spirit to teach us about the importance and power of Mary’s intercession. Our Blessed Mother was one of those in the Upper Room when the Spirit came at Pentecost (as you can see from our Pentecost stained glass window here in church).

Mary prayed, and something great happened for every disciple who was present and for the whole Church.

Those are just some of the possible reasons why Jesus waited before he poured out the Holy Spirit on his very first followers.

You could probably come up with others, if you spent some time reflecting on it.

But the bottom line is, Jesus didn’t delay things indefinitely. He had promised his faithful followers a gift—he had promised that he would “clothe them with power from on high”—and that’s exactly what he eventually did.

Which is the final and in some sense the most important lesson of the day: When Jesus Christ makes a promise, he ALWAYS keeps it!