In the Acts of the Apostles Luke wrote that Jesus took the apostles, to whom He had been regularly appearing after His resurrection, out to an area near Bethany. Jesus then instructed them to remain in Jerusalem because the event He promised (at Pentecost) would indeed be fulfilled very soon. He told them that they would receive a second, but different, baptism: “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”(Acts 1:5) Jesus told them they would receive power when the Holy Spirit descended and this would enable them to become witnesses to the entire world. In other words, Jesus was reminding them that His work was only just beginning. His ascension was not an end, but it was the ushering in of the new age of the Holy Spirit, and they were to be the ministers of the mercy, compassion, and love which Jesus had brought into the world. They were to be His presence among the people, empowering others to do the same, bringing the faith outwards to His people.
Each of us is similar to the apostles in that we have a mission and purpose in our lives. It may not seem like we are here to share our faith to the ends of the earth, but actually we are. Depending on how we have been called and the circumstances of our lives, we are to live our faith wherever we may be. Additionally, we need to recognize how important it is that we pray for one another in accomplishing that to which we have been called. We need apostles (bishops), presbyters (priests), and deacons as much today as they did in the first century. We need consecrated men and women to bring the message of Jesus into places where others of us may not be called to go. Yes, it is important that we pray for vocations, especially in this Year of Consecrated Life, but yet that is not enough. While prayer is (always) good, the Holy Spirit is counting on us to extend His invitation to those who may need affirmation in what they may have considered only lightly: choosing to live consecrated or ordained life. They may need that extra push to see what others may recognize in them.
We all need to spend time discerning a vocation, but after we choose, to never pray about it again makes no sense. Just as we celebrate the Ascension and the time leading up to Pentecost every year, this would be a perfect time to pray about where we are in living out our vocation. It is a good time to take our spiritual pulse and ask the Spirit to enliven us at Pentecost with a renewed sense of how to live out that to which we are called. We need to continually discern how we might be better disciples, how we may need to be more open to the Spirit for the gifts of mercy and compassion, especially toward those who we find difficult and pose a challenge to us. We need to reach out to those who are hurting or angry because they have been neglected or ‘under-loved’ who need mercy and compassion to heal their wounds so that they realize they are loved and loveable; and to those who are lonely and feel forgotten who need the mercy and compassion of loving acts of kindness done for them; and to those who are elderly, ill, imprisoned, or marginalized who need to know they never cease to have value in the eyes of God, and that they, too, are needed to build the Kingdom by their prayer, mercy, and compassion. If we do not share these things, how will anyone receive them and also pass them on? This is what Jesus asked of the apostles and it is what He is asking of us. We do not have to do anything that is outside of the area of life to which we have been called. Rather He calls us to share what we have been given, mercy and compassion, in the place where we are. We may have to reach a little outside of our comfort zone from time to time, but where love, mercy, and compassion are, Jesus is.
May we pray for all vocations, that men and women would answer the call to religious life and the priesthood; that those called to married and single life may understand that to which they are called and live out of the graces of the sacraments! May we continually discern how to live out our own vocation! May we learn from the ascended Jesus how to keep our eyes attuned to Heaven and our hearts attuned to the movements of the Holy Spirit! May we continue to pray for mercy, compassion, kindness, and peace to fall afresh on our world through the loving actions of the disciples of Jesus! And may we remember that we are never alone, but that Jesus is ever in our midst! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of our Risen and Ascended Lord, Jesus Christ! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The first two photos are mine. They were taken in the Rockies of Colorado.
The icon is The Holy Spirit, The Paraclete, The Lord and Giver of Life by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/all-categories/product/281-the-holy-spirit-the-paraclete-the-lord-and-giver-of-life
Finally is a painting by Nicolas Poussin called Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man (1655). It can be found at http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/24.45.2