On the evening of that day, when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them….
Here’s how I imagine it.
Mary, Peter, and John are telling their stories from the morning, piecing it together—electrified, exuberant. But some in the room are grieving, depressed, and angry.
Only Mary has seen you alive. Many don’t believe her.
The other Mary is cooking dinner, filling the house with the smell of roasting meat. James is adding wood to the fire. It’s loud. Another woman chops vegetables on the big wooden table and bangs pots around. People talk and argue about the events of the last three days.
What events, besides your death?
- Some say tombs have broken open and dead people are abroad in Jerusalem.
- Large earthquakes + 3-hour total eclipse of the sun.
- Most of your friends in this room deserted you when things got to be too much.
And you, Jesus, walk in on it.
The room falls silent. When did you get here? How did you get in? Did someone unlock the door?
Were you here all along?
The flames separated and settled on each of them….
Ten years ago at this time I was on a retreat at Our Lady of Solitude in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
During most of my three and a half weeks at OLS, the only other retreatant was an abbess on sabbatical from her convent in India. She and I spent much of each day together in silence in the chapel. One day she looked at me knowingly and pointed to the now flowering ocotillo plant outside the chapel window. “It’s almost Pentecost,” she said. “Those flowers remind me of flames.”
The anticipation of Pentecost in the middle of one of the hardest years of my life. Spring in the desert during an El Niño year. Flowers like flames.
The director of OLS when I was there, Sister Therese Sedlock, has since passed away, and OLS is now the home of five warmly dressed Poor Clares, four cats, and two puppies.
I wish I could return to OLS. I sent an email to ask about the possibility, and one of the sisters replied that they now offer retreat space only to Catholic priests.
But in my heart, I’m there. I found a lovely photo of an ocotillo plant, on a lovely blog. Worth visiting. Do click.
(Especially appropriate because Sr. Therese loved Cardinals, and she knew the individual birds that visited her bird feeder. She also had a special relationship with some members of the Arizona Cardinals football team and would fax them prayers and messages of encouragement before their games.)
Jesus rose from the dead (Easter), appeared to various people over the course of forty-plus days (the Easter season), ascended into heaven (Ascension), then sent the Holy Spirit to those he had left behind (Pentecost)—a series of terrifying, beautiful surprises.
Today is the sixth Saturday of Easter; Thursday was Ascension Day; Pentecost is in eight days. We’re in the middle of all this crazy new life. The bulbs I planted in December put up a few flowers and are now reduced to drooping green stalks, but … the wild irises outside my office window are rioting. There are six flowers out there this morning. Go figure.
And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.
I planted bulbs about a month ago, and this photo shows four tiny shoots above the ground. Can you see them? I can, but only because I have felt them with my fingertips. It dropped below freezing last week, which is rare for us, and I worried. But then I remembered that bulbs can survive much worse.