In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-11)
After his resurrection, Jesus returns to his disciples to give them two precious gifts: the first is the Holy Spirit who, as the text of Acts describes it, is a power, a dynamic force. On this small group of people is conferred a transforming power, a creative ability to set things moving and give birth to what does not yet exist.
The second gift is that of time. While the disciples urge Jesus to tell them when the end of time will come, in his reply he reverses the order of priorities: it is not for you to know the time of the end, do not worry about it, nor about when I shall restore the monarchy. Concern yourselves rather with using well the power given to you.
Basically, the two gifts go together: in addition to a creative ability, God also gives the time needed to make changes. If the Passion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and Pentecost are moments distinct from one another, it is because God is taking his time and leaving time to human beings.
One of the first consequences is the impossibility of judging people and situations definitively. Faced with our "always" and our "never" our "all" and our "nothing", often spoken rather too rapidly, God continues to give us both the Spirit of transformation and the call to patience. Not definitive solutions to the small and large problems of existence, but the call to accept the provisional nature of situations and to work for positive developments.
Pope Francis keeps repeating, especially to the socio-economic officials he meets, that "time is superior to space." In his encyclical The Joy of the Gospel, he wrote: "Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power and of self-assertion; it is to crystallize processes and presume to hold them back. Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces."(Paragraphs 223-224).
We therefore in turn must ask ourselves: if I aspire to become a son or daughter of the resurrection, how should I use my skills to initiate new processes rather than to conquer territories?
In addition to giving the Creator Spirit and time for change, Jesus encourages his disciples not to stay put after Pentecost, but to go "to the very ends of the earth." Entering the long time of God’s patience is a bit like becoming a traveler on this earth. This journey to proclaim the good news is geographical and spiritual: it consists not only in traveling for Jesus in the first sense of the term, setting out on a mission, but also to become a traveler in one’s own life.
Living with limited means, consenting not to know all about the next steps, living in a kind of provisional way, accepting not to plan or control everything: the time of God’s patience is that of change. Rather than seeking too-definitive answers, let us instead accept this provisional. Rather like in Taizé, where after forty years of youth meetings, we still prefer to keep the tents to meet in instead of constructing more buildings. The lack of comfort and the provisional keep us light; they make us humble and creative.
Paradoxically, this attitude of an inner journey is not that of the unbridled consumer, nor the tourist, nor the follower of the culture of waste who takes and throws away at a high rate. Consenting to have no definitive answers also leads to giving one’s life in a permanent commitment. It is in the name of an even greater journey that people bind themselves by an oath for ever. That oath does not restrict our creative freedom, but deepens it and gives it, ahead of time, a taste of eternity.
Have I already engaged in projects with an uncertain outcome? What impelled me to do so? What allowed me to keep on?
In giving us the power of his Holy Spirit, God inspires us to do new things. How can we fully utilize this gift we have received?