Taking That First Step
Feast of the Ascension
May 16, 2021
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?”
from Acts 1:1-11
By this time Jesus had been with the disciples for over three years. Over and over again, Jesus had taught them. They had seen him work miracles in many lives. They had been through the crucifixion and their own loss of faith, and then Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Yet, after all this time, now that Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, the disciples were still asking the wrong questions: “Now are you going to set up an earthly kingdom and make Israel the center of a world-wide empire?”
It is encouraging for us that, even at this late date, the disciples still hadn’t figured out what Jesus’ mission really was. No wonder Christ tells them to wait and not leave Jerusalem until he sends the Holy Spirit at Pentecost! We don’t have all the answers yet either. The Lord usually reveals his will one step at a time. The Lord is so patient with us: he gives us an entire lifetime to figure it out.
There is a saying among those who have been called to the religious life: people often enter for one reason, but they stay for another. This is often true for marriage and many other major decisions as well. Who among us can possibly know what the long term ramifications of a commitment will be? Sometimes, all we can see is how to take that first step. If we knew all possible ramifications of that first scary step, we would probably never take it!
So we see Jesus being so deeply patient with the apostles. He never intended to set up an earthly kingdom, and the disciples never were going to be rulers in it (like some of them thought for three years). Instead, their reward would be in heaven and the thrones they would rule from on earth would be thrones of martyrdom.
Like the apostles, when Jesus asks us to do something rather difficult for him, he doesn’t reveal everything all at once. No, he usually shows us only the first step. It must have seemed impossible at the Ascension that Christ should commission these eleven men who, after all, just three years earlier had been fishermen and trade people, to go out and evangelize the whole world. Yet, after the Holy Spirit came on them, they did just that. In the same way, even the most impossible things that God asks of us can become possible – if we are willing to risk taking that first step.