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And then it was over.

Not with horror and anguish as it had been the first time—when it hadn’t really been over.

But this time Jesus had made it clear: he was leaving. He would send the Holy Spirit (whatever that meant), but he wouldn’t walk among them anymore, wouldn’t eat with them and chat with them and tease them in the way he had.

“I will not leave you orphans,” he had said; “I will come to you” (John 14:18). And maybe a few of them really understood that he would be present in the Eucharist, truly present, just as present as he had been in Bethlehem and Jerusalem and everywhere in between. But it wouldn’t be the same. Not the way it had been.

It was worse than just missing him, though. He hadn’t just left them; he’d left them in charge. Go, baptize, teach, he’d said, leaving them a final commission that left even the boldest of them quaking. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). That was hard enough, but at least they’d had a taste of it when they’d been sent out before.

But he wasn’t done: “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mk 16:17-18).

This was getting absurd. Sure, they’d seen glimpses of this kind of power when they’d been on mission for Jesus, but that had been different. Then, they’d known that they’d see him soon. They could ask his advice and get his feedback on what they’d done wrong. Then, nothing had depended on them. But now everything seemed to rest squarely on their shoulders.

Because Jesus was well and truly gone. He’d floated up into the sky and been carried away by a cloud. And though there was joy at this manifestation of power, this vision they’d been given of God mounting his throne, the majesty of the Ascension had left them all standing there dumbly, staring at the sky.

What on earth were they supposed to do now? Jesus had said he would be with them always—the very last thing he’d said to them (Mt 28:20)—but he certainly wasn’t with them as he had been before. He’d told them they would receive power (a word so strong it has the same root as dynamite) when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8), but what did that mean? When would it happen? How would they know?

And how could they possibly preach to all nations? This was the God of Israel, the God who had chosen the Jews as his people. What had Athens or Rome or Samaria to do with Jerusalem? But Jesus had been clear: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Jerusalem would be hard enough to witness to, given how they had reacted to Jesus himself. But the despised Samaria? And then further afield, to the licentious pagans who had no interest in the things of God? It was too much.

And so they stood there. Staring. Utterly immobilized by the immensity of the task before them.

It took the appearance of two angels to snap them out of it. “Men of Galilee,” they heard, “why are you standing there looking at the sky?” (Acts 1:11) Put that way, it did seem rather silly.

So they turned from the last place they’d seen him. They walked away from the comfort that being with him had always offered. And they stepped out in faith.

At first, it just meant going back to Jerusalem to wait. What they were waiting for, none of them quite knew. But they waited, and they prayed, the Eleven with some women and—especially—Mary the Mother of God.

They must have spent that first novena peppering her with questions. “Mary, did you know….?” they asked, again and again, trying to know Jesus better, to understand better what it had been like for her. And mixed in with the questions about Jesus were some that felt even more pressing: “Didn’t you say that the Holy Spirit had come upon you (Luke 1:35)? What does that mean? What was that like? How does it feel? What should we do?”

With Jesus gone from their sight (though not, as we know, from their midst), they turned their eyes to Mary. They realized that she had already gone before them as the first follower of Jesus and as his first Apostle. She’d been bringing Jesus to others since he was an embryo, causing John the Baptist to leap in his mother’s womb and filling Elizabeth, too, with the Spirit (Luke 1:41-44).

And Mary, as always, pointed them back to Jesus. “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5), she must have said again and again. And soon, they would receive the Spirit. They would go out. They would change the world.

We’ve been given the same commission, called by the same Jesus to preach to the world. And we’ve been filled by the same Spirit, empowered in the same way to make disciples of all nations.

But we’re still stuck in the upper room. Even those among us who’ve seen the risen Christ, who’ve encountered him in a meaningful way, are still standing there, mouths agape, staring at the sky.

The Apostles had an excuse: they hadn’t yet been “clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).

We have. In our Baptism and again at our Confirmation, we’ve been filled with the Spirit, equipped to go out and proclaim the name of Jesus to the world. Instead, we’re barely whispering him to the Church. We keep our lips pressed together, afraid that we won’t say the right thing, that we’ll offend someone.

But the world is desperate for Jesus, longing to know him, to discover the meaning and peace and joy that come from being wildly loved by God himself. The world needs resurrection, needs new life breathed into the death of sin and suffering.

And we have been given that commission, not just called to follow but sent out to proclaim.

When the Apostles received the Spirit, they went out. To India and Ethiopia and Turkey and Egypt and Italy. They went with joy, knowing just what it would cost them.

We who have met the risen Jesus have to do the same.

As Easter winds to a close, we may be inclined to put away our chocolate and settle into a nice long season of ease during Ordinary Time. But this time is anything but ordinary; for centuries, these Sundays were measured by how many weeks had passed since Pentecost. Ordinary Time, then, is the season of Pentecost, the season of mission. As we move into Ordinary Time (into Pentecost-tide), take some time to ask the Holy Spirit to pull your gaze from the sky and set it on the world. Ask for a clear, concrete mission to pursue between now and Advent. Who is God asking you to witness to? How is he asking you to step out boldly in faith? How will you exercise your baptismal call to be a missionary this year?

Or will you just keep standing there dumbly wondering what to do next?