While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" They replied, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." Then he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They answered, "Into John's baptism." Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. altogether there were about twelve of them.
He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God.
Let God arise, let his foes be scattered.
Let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is blown away so will they be blown away,
like wax that melts before the fire,
so the wicked shall perish at the presence of God. (R./)
But the just shall rejoice at the presence of God,
they shall exult and dance for joy.
O sing to the Lord, make music to his name;
rejoice in the Lord, exult at his presence. (R./)
Father of the orphan, defender of the widow,
such is God in his holy place.
God gives the lonely a home to live in;
he leads the prisoners forth into freedom. (R./)
The disciples said to Jesus, "Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God."
Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!"
"I am speaking to you plainly," Jesus said, yet the language of his Last Supper discourse often baffles us, as it baffled the disciples. How will they find peace in Jesus, once they are scattered? How will their disintegration convince them that Jesus has come from God? Decades later, plain language will be scrambled still more when some disciples in Corinth speak in tongues and prophesy. Such extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit go beyond rational discourse. In such a circumstance, we can do one of two things: either declare it an illusion and walk away, or sense that God is present, beyond our capacity to explain. Earlier in the Acts (chapter 10), when a group of gentiles began to speak in tongues, Peter decided that there was nothing to stop these people from being baptized. (Acts 10:47). And when he was later challenged about it, his defence was that "the Holy Spirit came upon them - Who was I to interfere with him?" The Church must remain open to the mysterious interventions of the Holy Spirit.
Normally, plain speech moves with clear ideas and in logical sequence. We are able to refine our reasoning and form a view about the logic of an argument. If we are alert and express our ideas clearly, our minds are in control. Tongues and prophecy, on the contrary, go beyond the limits of human logic. They can be an ecstatic expression prompted by the Holy Spirit. They communicate an experience, touching the strings of emotion and the fibres in the heart. They are not subject to rational logic; they just happen! And if they happen, what can one say but: Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Or say like Peter, "the Holy Spirit came upon them... Who was I to interfere?"
Jesus' puzzling words at the Last Supper were afterwards understood as beautiful and good. Even though the disciples scattered and left him alone, his steadfastness was such that we are not left alone; Jesus and the Father are with us. At no time does our Lord's example call us to forgive so much as during his Passion, when he exemplifies the meaning of forgiving seventy times seven (Matt 18:22) and of being willing to die for the sake of one's friends (John 15:13).
Jesus knew that those closest to him would abandon him after his arrest. Rather than following, the disciples will go their own way, leaving him alone. Yet he speaks with the conviction that he is never really alone because God his Father is always with him. Even as he hung from the cross, God was with him, supporting him.
This is a conviction that he wants us to share. There are times when we feel very alone in life. This is especially true of those who have never married or of older people whose spouses have died and whose families are away. Yet, even when lonely, we can say with Jesus "I am not alone." God the Father is with us as he was with Jesus. The risen Jesus is also with us, as is the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts. Even when alone, we are always in the presence of God, and living members of that family of love. This awareness can bring us a deep peace, a peace the world cannot give. As Jesus says in today's gospel, "in me you will have peace."