He is Risen! During the time that the Lord Jesus spent with His disciples after the Resurrection, He gave them news which at first must have been heartbreaking: that He was leaving, returning to His Father. But in the Gospel we hear this Sunday, we are reminded of His promise that He will not leave them orphans, but that He will ask the Father to send them (and us) another Advocate. In His preparation of them for His departure, He tells them that it is better for them that He goes, because if He does not, then the Advocate will not come. Put yourself in their shoes: they had seen the horrendous events of the Passion and Death of the Lord Jesus, then the glorious Resurrection, and now He was with them but telling them He was about to leave! How could that possibly be better for them? This is one more example of the disciples having to accept the seemingly impossible, i.e. what could possibly be better than the Lord Jesus being with them, being able to see Him, to talk to Him, to share life with Him? But He insists, it will be better for them if He leaves!
The only way this could possibly make sense would be if there were some way in which the coming of the Advocate could convey to them the experience of the presence of the Lord Jesus that was just as real as if He were standing there with them. There was no way that they could conceive of that as a possibility. So, once again, they had to trust Him. It was as much of a mystery to them as was the idea that He would give them His very flesh to eat. So once again, they chose to trust Him. Then Pentecost happens, and the presence of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, conveys to them and experience of the presence of the Lord Jesus and His power that was just as real and concrete as if He Himself were standing there with Him. Then they understood how He could say that that would be better, because now, each one of them, could walk with Him, experiencing His presence through the power of the Spirit that had been given to them, not limited to location, but everywhere.
This was the experience of so many people when the Catholic Charismatic Renewal broke out again 50 years ago. One of the most common sentiments people expressed as a result of being baptized in the Holy Spirit was that the Lord Jesus was now more real to them than He had ever been before! This continues to be the promise of the Lord Jesus, that He sends us that Advocate, Who we first receive when we are baptized, Who is greatly strengthened in us when we are Confirmed, and Who constantly is present to us. This great season in the Church’s life when we both rejoice in the Resurrection and prepare for Pentecost is a time to ask for more, more of the presence of that divine Advocate, Who empowers us and leads us ever closer to the Lord Jesus!
What should the consequence of His presence in our lives me? The first reading describes in great detail what can happen when we are more filled with the Holy Spirit—how those gifts and graces move through us to empower us to spread the Gospel by words and by deeds, giving people reason to believe in the Lord Jesus and surrender their lives to Him. The Church has been giving us these readings from the Acts of the Apostles during this whole Easter season, not simply as a way of pointing out the details of the history of the early Church, but as a gift to us to call us on to deeper faith so that we too have an expectation of receiving more of the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives!
As we hear these readings, let us examine our own lives and ask ourselves, do we have enough of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are we sufficiently empowered by Him to be the sons and daughters we are called to be? If not, now is the time to ask for more, to plead with Him, prepare our hearts for Pentecost!