6th Week of Easter (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma
Have the disciples been listening? Have they truly heard what Jesus is trying to teach them about who and what they are to become? On many occasions in the three years they have spent with Jesus, the disciples have misunderstood him, ignored him, failed to follow him, and now, as he stands on the verge of leaving them behind, they exhibit a curious lack of curiosity. Jesus says to them, “Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?'” Do they fail to ask because they do not care? Or, because they already know and don't want their worst fears confirmed? Jesus answers the question for us, “. . .because I told you [that I am leaving], grief has filled your hearts.” His friends know that he is leaving them behind, moving on to Jerusalem and a gruesome death. Though their grief is only natural, it cannot stand against the coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of sin and convinces the worldliest heart that not even death can triumph over the promise of eternal life through Christ.
Jesus will leave his friends behind. He will go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of his enemies, die on the cross, and rise from the grave to live again. He will ascend to the Father, and the Holy Spirit will come to sweep across those who heard his words and witnessed his deeds. All their fear, doubt, worry; all their confusion, questions, insecurities; any hesitation they harbor in preaching the gospel, all of these will be set ablaze, burned away by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Then they will set out to heal, to cast out demons, to speak God's word of mercy to sinners, to suffer and die as Christ himself suffered and died. In the rush to pack and leave for their missions, do they remember the question they forgot to ask, “Where are you going?” If they were listening to Jesus while he was among them, they already know how to answer, “Lord, I am going to Jerusalem; I am following you to the cross.”
Two thousand years later, the question still matters. Baptized, confirmed in the Spirit, nourished at the altar, where are you going? Jesus is gone and the Advocate has come. Where are you going? To Jerusalem and your cross? Of course. But there are many hours and many miles between now and then, here and there. If the Spirit has convicted us of our sin and convinced us of the truth, what do we do in the meantime, all those miles in between? We do what Jesus did. We do what the disciples did once the Spirit seized their grieving hearts. Proclaim the truth. Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. Forgive, love, show mercy. Bring peace to worry. Bear good fruit and give it away. Live in joy. Die for your friends. Each time, a step behind our Lord. Each step, a moment longer with him.
Where are we going? Wherever the Spirit sends us. When are we leaving? If we've been listening, we are already well on our way.
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