Have you ever thought about what the first Christians were doing in the period between the Ascension and Pentecost, or what you would do in their place? It’s a fascinating exercise, to be confronted with the question “Christ is alive, what are you gonna do about it?”
In many ways, this is the question with which we are still presented today, though we have the benefit of the Holy Spirit. In the aftermath of our Easter celebrations, we sense that we are meant to go do something, that we should not emerge from Holy Week unchanged, but so often it can be confusing, even frightening to try to figure out a practical next step. What do we do now that our lives are changed, and the world along with them?
It would be easy, of course, to give a rote answer of “spread the gospel”, and that wouldn’t be wrong. That’s exactly what the Lord told us to do before he ascended. All our actions must have that component to some degree.
And yet, it seems that there is a step before that, modeled to us by the apostles. Scripture tells us that on the day of Pentecost, “they were all together in one place”. They were gathered in community, presumably praying and sharing their lives together as they figured out how to obey the great commission.
Now, one reading of the events of Pentecost would accept this, but turn the descent of the Holy Spirit into a sort of divine kick in the pants, that God said “enough hanging out, it’s time to get to work.” I don’t find that particularly compelling. Rather, I think we can read this as (pun somewhat intended) a confirmation of what had been taking place up to that point.
From the very beginning of Scripture, we see God constantly take into account that “it is not good for man to be alone”. We are made for relationship and community, and our evangelism should be an extension of that, not something that happens separately. It seems to me, then, that this time in community was necessary for the apostles to begin their ministry, and this is a lesson we should take from their example.
As the pandemic (hopefully) draws to a close, it will be a challenge to return to communitarian ways of life, to the generosity and service which a shared life in Christ ought to foster. The challenge doesn’t diminish our calling, though. It is for exactly this purpose that we have been strengthened through the celebration of our Lord.
What does this look like practically, though? I think it begins with a return or a beginning of a culture of practical generosity. We begin by giving of ourselves, through service, through the works of mercy, and through opening our homes to those we love whenever and however it is safe. It means bible studies, and prayer as a family. It means that the faith is built up among the believers so that we have something attractive to invite others into.
This is going to be a difficult process, excited as we may be. But the reality of Christ’s resurrection demands action, it demands that we are changed, that we do something about it. Know of our prayers for you all, and please be praying for us.
Andy Brandt is a Staff Editor, Producer, and General Ne’er-do-well at Konza Catholic. You can find his writing on Catholicism, Justice, and Politics here.