The Apostles are “those sent on a mission to act with Authority”. But remember that, even after the Ascension, the eleven Apostles did not immediately depart to distant lands. Instead, they retreated back to Jerusalem, hiding in small rooms in inconspicuous houses, fearful and anxious for their lives. Although they were united as a tiny community, they still prayed fervently as they awaited the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, uncertain as to when or how Jesus’ promise would be fulfilled when death seemingly awaited them at every corner.
It should be noted that the Apostles were not alone. There were other people with them, men and women both, who had followed Jesus during his ministry. With them was Mary, the mother of Jesus. Despite the passivity of the reading, general knowledge of this time period will make everyone’s anxiety, doubts, and fear very palpable. Even with Jesus’s promise, the questions remain: when will the Holy Spirit come? We are so small in number…how can we speak against the high priests? Against Jewish tradition? How can we survive Rome, who crucified Jesus so easily? Will we not all just die in vain? We are only human. How can we change anything?
Some of these questions are ones we struggle with even today. But if anything, this reading, with its scene of the still human Apostles, should motivate all of us to pray to God for strength against what seems like crushing impossibilities. Like the Apostles in their darkest hours, we should make genuine prayer and communal life central to our spirituality.