My almost 5-year old daughter loves the classic film, Wizard of Oz. A popular choice for our “Friday movie night,” I often find myself smiling as the Cowardly Lion purrs the familiar word, “courage.”
Yesterday, the Catholic Church celebrated the feast of Pentecost- marking the experience when the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples of Jesus, sending them forth with a new tool kit of language, skill sets, faith, and yes, courage.
Reflecting on this experience so many years ago, I pondered this question : What if the disciples never left the upper room?
It is no surprise that the friends of Jesus would retreat to a safe place to pray as they mourned his death. Along with Mary, they went to “the upper room,” the place where they would eventually, and most likely unexpectedly, receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The upper room is also believed to be the place where the Last Supper took place.
Of all places they would go, this space makes most sense. When we lose someone we love, it is natural to recall our most recent memory. We cherish it, as if we hold on to them just a little bit longer in that mental and physical space.
That Passover meal was for many the last time they were with Jesus. The intimacy of him washing their feet. The breaking of the bread. The warnings of what was to come. The fellowship, the laughter, and the prayers.
It was safe here. This room was home.
What if they never left?
When Pentecost happens, they are pushed forward. But what if they still stayed in place? What if they didn’t accept or truly believe in the call and presence of God that was shoving them back into the world?
It is hard to imagine Christianity spreading to different parts of the world without these disciples moving into action. The threat that led to the persecution of countless early believers would have quietly faded like many other social movements after the death of their leader.
In our own lives, we, too, can find comfort in our own upper room- a place that is familiar and safe as it once served its purpose. This could be a physical space, but it can also be a mental or emotional place, or even a familiar relationship or community. There comes a time when God calls us to forward- something new as it is frightening. Flames may not fall from the heavens, but the universe finds its ways to point you where God needs you to go- only if you have the courage to listen and to act.
Let’s revisit the “what if” question from a personal perspective. Will you look back at your life when the number of trips around the sun are winding down and wonder, “what if I had the courage to step out of the safe and familiar to trust the unknown path that God summoned?”
May this Pentecost remind you of the divine that is already burning within your soul, nudging and shoving you into the next chapter- to chase the dreams that God planted on your heart, to respond with love in places of hate, and to heal where there is hurt. Like the wounded and mourning friends of Christ, ask God for the courage to animate your dreams to bring the “good news” to all in your midst.