These are Jesus’ last moments with his own. Very soon he will leave them in order to enter once and for all into the Father’s mystery. No longer can he walk with them on the world’s paths as he has done in Galilee. No one else can take the place of his presence.
The only thing on Jesus’ mind is that the announcement of God’s forgiveness and mercy reach every nation. That all hear his call to conversion. No one has to feel lost. No one has to live without hope. Everyone must know that God understands and loves God’s sons and daughters without end. Who can announce this Good News?
As Luke tells it, Jesus isn’t thinking about priests or bishops. Nor about doctors or theologians. He wants to leave «witnesses» behind in the world. This is the most important: «You are witnesses to this». Jesus’ witnesses will be the ones who communicate their experience of a good God and they will spread their way of life by working for a more humane world.
But Jesus knows his disciples well. They are weak and afraid. Where will they find the audacity to be witnesses of someone who has been crucified by the Empire’s representative and by the leaders of the Temple? Jesus calms their anxiety: «I am sending upon you what the Father has promised». They won’t lack «the power from on high». God’s Spirit will defend them.
In order to express Jesus’ desire graphically, Luke the evangelist describes Jesus’ leaving of this world in a surprising manner: Jesus returns to the Father as he raises his hands and blesses his disciples. This is his last gesture. Jesus enters into the unfathomable mystery of God, and his blessing descends over the world.
We Christians have forgotten that we are carriers of Jesus’ blessing. Our first task is to be witnesses of God’s goodness. Keep hope alive. Not give in to evil. This world that seems to be a «living hell» isn’t lost. God looks upon it with kindness and compassion.
Even today it’s possible to do good, to spread goodness. It’s possible to work for a more humane world and for a healthier way of living. We can be more in solidarity and less selfish. More austere and less enslaved by money. The economic crisis itself can push us to seek urgently a society that is less corrupt.
Jesus is a blessing and people need to know it. The main thing is to promote a «pastoral of kindness». We must see ourselves as witnesses and prophets of that Jesus who spent his life sowing gestures and words of goodness. That’s how he woke up the people to Galilee to the hope of a good and saving God. Jesus is a blessing and the people need to know it.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf