30 May 2019
In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’
As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’
It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.
In other words, brothers, through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary, by a new way which he has opened for us, a living opening through the curtain, that is to say, his body. And we have the supreme high priest over all the house of God. So as we go in, let us be sincere in heart and filled with faith, our minds sprinkled and free from any trace of bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is faithful.
It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority
We have all been there – waiting to hear back after a job interview, an examination or even a date. Some people are better at weathering the uncertainty, going about their daily lives while occasionally dwelling on what might happen. Some people are crippled by the suspense, ruminating over every possible outcome and expecting the worst. Yet some others try to take control of the situation and their emotions to make the wait more bearable, perhaps by sending polite follow-up emails or text messages or distracting themselves with unrelated tasks or thoughts. Regardless of the coping response, one thing is clear – there is nothing we can do to affect the outcome.
We can imagine the emotional rollercoaster the apostles went through after Jesus’ crucifixion – first, sorrow and despair when their Messiah had fallen, followed by initial disbelief and elation over Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus had appeared to them several times after that, telling them about the kingdom of God. The apostles must have felt like they were on the cusp of something phenomenal and eagerly sought answers as to what lay ahead. Instead, Jesus commanded them to stay in Jerusalem and wait. In light of the recent events, Jesus’ instruction must have been anti-climactic and unsatisfying. True enough, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles ten days later. Receiving gifts and powers beyond their human abilities, the apostles went on to baptise and make disciples of all nations.
If we associate God’s presence with dramatic acts of conversion or transformation, we may feel discouraged when our prayers go seemingly unanswered. This lull may be in fact be an invitation to stillness, to prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit. Let us take heart that just as Jesus walked with his disciples, he continues to journey with, and mould us in our journey of life. In closing, may we remember that “God has perfect timing; never early, never late. It takes a little patience and a whole lot of faith…But it’s worth the wait.”
(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for patience and perseverance to live out our calling as children of God. As we entrust ourselves to You, may we surrender our need for control, trusting that You will provide the graces we need for the journey ahead.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we may bear witness to Your word.