For whatever the reason, our lives are turned up-side-down, and suddenly we are alone. We can no longer sense his presence. Jesus disappears from our view, as he disappeared from the apostles' view when he ascended into heaven, as in this artistic portrayal by Salvador Dali. And suddenly, without his presence, we feel disoriented, bereft, like orphans.
We are in a dark night of challenged faith and endless, aching longing. "Where are you?" We call. "You walked beside me, and then you were gone. I can't keep going without you. I don't understand what's happening to me, but please come back."
If doubts are assailing us, they seem twice as heavy, twice as powerful, since our prayers no longer seem to touch him, and he doesn't touch our hearts in return.
This is how the apostles felt after Jesus had ascended into heaven: where should they go? What should they do? How could they continue going without him? They knew he had risen from the dead; they'd seen him with their own eyes, heard his voice blessing them with "peace," touched him, eaten with him. But it was a hostile world out there. And as he rose, he asked them to preach the joy of the Gospel to all peoples. How?
When Jesus left, he counseled his apostles and disciples to pray and wait for his and the Father's gift of the Holy Spirit. When we are alone and in darkness, Jesus tells us exactly the same thing: "Pray without ceasing, even if your prayer life feels dry and useless. Wait in faith and trust. And, as surely as the sun rises, at the right time and in the right way, the Holy Spirit will come to you. This exuberant Spirit will come when you least expect it. Perhaps when you're on your last legs and your last nerve. But come the Spirit will."
And, sooner or later, the darkness and dryness lift. The Holy Spirit descends in a burst of energy and counsels us. Perhaps the Spirit tells us to leave our doubts and questions in God's Hands, to be answered at a time of His choosing. Perhaps He tells us to say to the Lord: "I believe. Help my unbelief."
Perhaps He tells us to go forward and preach the Gospel with courage and leave the results to God. Perhaps He simply rains comfort over us for our thirsty spirits to drink and absorb so we grow green with hope again. The Holy Spirit knows each of our spiritual needs and will not fail us.
And the other Gift the Holy Spirit brings is the Presence of Jesus back to us, for the Spirit reminds us forcibly of everything that Jesus has spoken to us and done for us. The Holy Spirit reminds us most of Jesus the Risen Christ's Promise that he will always act in our lives, and always DOES act in our lives, even and especially if it is under the cover of mysterious darkness.
In these days between the Ascension of Our Lord and Pentecost, we wait and pray in the darkness of our losses, our doubts and our fears. We pray and remember. The Holy Spirit has come to us before, in our hours of greatest need. The Holy Spirit will come again, to re-kindle our doubting, fearful hearts and souls with the Fire of Infinite Love. We pray and we weep and we hope:
"Come, Holy Spirit!"