So, Jesus has gone. We will not see him any more. What are we supposed to do? I think these or similar thoughts were lingering in the Apostles’ heads after they had said goodbye to their master. I’m pretty sure that, after so intense a time that they had spent following him, all of a sudden they somehow felt abandoned and left to their own devices.
Many of us are familiar with a similar sense of loss. Husbands or wives, children or parents, who have passed away; friends that have parted, families that have been torn apart by bitter arguments; those struck by natural, or economic, or personal disaster… There are so many ways that lead to disappointment, bitterness, loneliness and so on… What is common to all these is the prevalent sense of personal unworthiness, injustice and abandonment. At some point everyone has already experienced, or will experience, such a thing. It’s unavoidable because we live in an imperfect world.
But such inevitability doesn’t mean that we have to face it with a kind of surrendering resignation and inactivity. Let’s come back to the Apostles for a while. They were made aware of Jesus’ departure well in advance. They even experienced the moment of the apparent end of their dreams when Jesus was crucified. That knowledge and that experience have changed them and have changed their attitude. When Jesus is not bodily present among them any more, they gather in the upper room. It’s the place of the Last Supper, when Jesus gave them the Sacrament of his permanent presence, the Eucharist; it’s the place where he promised them another Comforter. And so they return to such a significant place and stay together, praying within a community of those who have followed Jesus closely, including his mother. They gather there, but not to indulge in their self-pity and sorrow. They look forward to fulfilling Jesus’ promise, though they don’t know exactly the way it is going to be fulfilled.
When we face difficult situations in our lives, we can react in different ways; some of them are better than others, some of them are completely useless or even hurtful. Sometimes people plunge into self-pity or self-disregard, followed by frozen inaction, and in extreme situations developing suicidal feelings. Other people nurse their grudges, developing a vindictive attitude, and sometime even putting that into action. Either way is damaging to the individual, and often to those around him, but the result is rarely satisfactory to anyone. There’s a better way forward; admittedly demanding some effort, but leading ultimately to far better and constructive results.
The starting point is analysis of the situation the individual is in. This is a crucial stage, because false premises inevitably lead to wrong conclusions. Similarly to the Apostles who gathered to pray together, we need to find a small community that prays for and with us. We need to believe that God leads us through even the most unpleasant situation to something better, so we ask for faith and for better understanding. Then we analyse the situation, and particularly our own attitudes, expectations and actions towards it. At this point we need a well-balanced approach as it’s easy to blame others or ourselves completely for any failure. It’s good to have someone just to listen to us, as thoughts spoken out loud can reveal inconsistencies in our otherwise seemingly consistent mental processes. After such a solid examination we can decide what lessons should be learned and what decision should be made to move forward. As the past is gone, the only time we can shape is the here-and-now, leading towards the unknown but always promising future.