Have you ever wondered why we don’t have a liturgical season that specifically leads to Pentecost? We have Advent to get ready for Christmas. We have Lent to cleanse our hearts for Easter. Why not a unique time to prepare ourselves for the indwelling of the Spirit and the equipping for mission? Or do we?
In today’s first reading, the apostles and the broader group of Easter witnesses gather to pray. They are getting ready. They may not have consciously realized it, but we can see it clearly in hindsight: they are on another edge of time, the edge of some happening that is about to be personally life-changing and historically world-changing. They are getting ready for Pentecost. Change experts say that there are stages to prepare to make significant change that lasts. If you want to lose weight, first take some time to analyze what you eat and when and why. Then plan how to diet accordingly. If you intend to move to a new country, take some time to learn the language and the customs and prepare yourself mentally to make that radical shift. Enduring change requires a time of preparation.
God must be the original change expert. Wisely, Jesus did not throw the disciples into mission right away. Luke says that he taught them how to understand the scriptures. He repeatedly asked them to pray and prepare. It will not be an easy task that he asks of them. They will be persecuted. They will share in his sufferings. In today’s Gospel, he prays for them to be one. He wants to make sure that they have the tools needed to carry out the mission—both the empowerment of the Spirit and the strength of the community.