There are many places mentioned in Scripture that seem distant and remote, separated from us by thousands of miles and years. You may have visited some of those places or maybe just know them vicariously. One of those places might be particularly significant for us in this time of challenge. It is known as the Upper Room. In the Acts of the Apostles Luke tells us about the disciples returning there after Jesus’ death and Resurrection, waiting for the Holy Spirit in “isolation.” I think that we can identify with this experience of the disciples. True, that place is located in the land where Jesus spent his days while on earth, but an Upper room can be anywhere. We can have our own Upper Room – of course, not in the Holy Land — but in our homes, our rooms, our offices, wherever we can spend some time each day in prayer.
The Upper Room is one of the most important rooms in all of Christendom. It is the place where Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles – a loving example of service for all of us to follow. It is the place where Jesus, with his closest friends, celebrated the Last Supper, thus instituting the Eucharist. Scripture tells us that they were gathered in “isolation,” living in fear and trying to deal with the unknown and their new life without Jesus physically being with them. It seems appropriate at this time when we need to spend some time in thoughtful prayer and in grounding ourselves in what is important in our lives that we look to our special place of prayer. Like us, they were huddled in this room waiting, not knowing when the promised Holy Spirit would come to them nor when they would be able to burst out and go forth to spread the good news to others. But until that time of Pentecost, they stayed in the Upper Room and Scripture says “with one accord, prayed” and waited.
We are so fortunate to be able to create our own Upper Room where we can experience the presence of God. We can take the opportunity, as Bishop Barron puts it, to “sit quietly” in that place to seek and encounter Jesus through prayer, reflection and the Scriptures. It is there, in that special place, where we can leave our many distractions of the day and pray to the Holy Spirit to come into our world and guide us. In imitation of Jesus’ followers we are waiting in our own isolation for what God has in store for us –- perhaps something new and different, but always a part of his Divine plan for us. It is in our Upper Room that we pray for patience and trust that we, like the early followers, will experience the time when we will be able to burst forth into a world that hopefully has learned how to be “in one accord” as were they.
Don’t you think the disciples in that room must have felt somewhat abandoned and uneasy with God’s timing and were wondering when Jesus would be sending the Spirit to them? We might be feeling those same emotions. Great shepherds of our faith have given us inspirational words to lead us. One of our Cardinals reminded his people that they have a wonderful opportunity to draw strength and inspiration while in our sacred place. “Recall.” he says, “that it was in the Upper Room that Jesus promised to be with his followers always and where he lovingly called them friends.” Father Ron Rohlheiser reminds us that “…to enter the Upper Room is to re-root ourselves and trust that God is preparing us to receive a new fire.” Bishop Barren suggests that while we are in our “quiet time” we might use it well by contemplating the qualities of those who were gathered in the Upper Room—the steadfastness of Mary, the courage of Peter, the doubting of Thomas, the betrayal of Judas and the love of John. He puts these questions to us: How do we resonate with each character in that scene? Who are the steadfast, courageous, self-sacrificing people in our lives that give us strength and inspiration? What can we do to make our time of waiting holier, more loving, more thoughtful of others? While spending time in our Upper Room let’s make the most of this opportunity to think about these questions and to pray, meditate and look to the Holy Spirit’s coming into our lives and giving us the peace and guidance the world so desperately needs.