Imagine the Apostles for the forty days after the Resurrection. Jesus was back! He was there, teaching them, eating with them, speaking of what he’d accomplished.
He told them to take the gifts they would soon receive and be His witnesses throughout the world.
Then he was taken up.
Wait–what? Lord, you were back. You were with us, and we were so happy to be with you. Are you abandoning us, again?
As they stared into the clouds, hardly comprehending what had happened, two figures nearby brought them back to Earth with the words, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?”
Events this month, in a time of year so beautiful and full of life, have wrenched our gaze from the sky. May has become a time of deep grief and mourning as we face three mass shootings: Buffalo, Laguna Woods, Uvalde. The first two were motivated by racial and political hate; with the third, innocent children and teachers were slaughtered by a person barely out of childhood himself.
When these horrific events happen, we struggle not only with why, but what we can do. “This happened in a place where those in power have made it easier to acquire weapons. I have no power to change that.”
Like the apostles after the Ascension, we feel abandoned and unmoored.
In my Jesuit Volunteer Corps house many years ago, we had a poster on the wall. A drawing of a sea of people, together but isolated, each with the thought bubble over their head “What can one woman (man) do?”
When Jesus instructed his apostles to wait for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he did not expect them to act on their own. He said they were to be witnesses—plural—working together to spread the Good News.
In the ongoing work of social justice, we get that we are to work together. We get that this is a long game. Events like those of the past few weeks still (and rightly so) knock us to our knees. We must remember to lean on each other, to use our unique gifts collectively, and continue to hope and offer witness to Jesus’ loving message of justice.
Ann Daley Smrekar is administrative assistant for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of John Carroll University and served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.