Don’t you hate it when a TV season’s closing or a novel’s ending leaves us asking, “What then?” Narrative curiosity doesn’t like to be thwarted by unfinished stories.
Yet here on the brink of Pentecost we learn that the stories we’ve been following this Easter Season don’t end here. As the Acts of the Apostles closes, Paul remains under house arrest in Rome. What happens next? Tradition recounts Paul’s death, but Luke doesn’t even mention it. As John’s gospel ends, Jesus asks a nosy Peter, “What if I want [the Beloved Disciple] to remain until I come? What business is it of yours? You follow me.” What happens next?
Pentecost is not the end of any tale. It’s the beginning of the Church’s story, and that’s not over yet. It’s the beginning of all our stories as believers infused with the Spirit at baptism, and none of those have ended yet. The present always comes with an edge: the edge where today will slip into tomorrow. What will happen then?
Jesus’ answer to Peter served him and us: Never mind what’s going to happen to anyone, even you. Your life is now, not tomorrow or next week. Now the only business you have is to follow me. Because tomorrow will be made by the choices you make today.
Perhaps we want to know what’s coming next because we’ve learned that surprises aren’t always happy, but if we know the end of the story in all its detail, what is the point of reading on or living on? The end of the story is God’s surprise. Our job is not to figure it out. It’s to follow Jesus every day until we get there. As we do, we become what happens next.
In your life’s story so far, when has God surprised you out of the plot direction you expected and into one unforeseen? How have your own choices led there? How has your story been shaped by following Christ or be choosing not to?
Prayer: O God, Creator and Storyteller, teach me to read the signs of your Holy Presence on the journey of my life so that my story will reach the ending you desire for me. Amen!