Can you imagine the chaos and the emotional whiplash the disciples must have gone through in the scene described in the Gospel today? They went from fear, disappointment, hopelessness and deep sadness to extreme shock and joy. This is no ghost standing in front of them, nor a heavenly vision. This is Jesus, the one they saw on the cross, the one they saw die, the one, even now who bears the nail marks and other wounds from his crucifixion.
Jesus does something for them, that perhaps most overlook. He breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit. It is important for Jesus to give to them the third person of the Trinity at this time, because there will soon be a time when the resurrected Jesus is not going to be physically present to them. They, like us will begin to experience what is called “the in-between time,” the time between Jesus Ascension and his second coming. This is the time in which we live now. We may feel abandoned and left alone by Jesus who is now ascended into heaven. Now what?
While Jesus has ascended in his physical presence, the fullness of God is still present to us in the presence of the Holy Spirit. This same spirit is what made it possible for those bumbling, sometimes dim witted disciples to do some courageous and miraculous things. The presence of the Holy Spirit is what gave the disciples and now us, the capacity to do incredible things, and to do the things that Jesus asks us to do. He is with us still. Without the Holy Spirit, we could do nothing.
While the disciples might have felt a certain amount of sadness and even fear after Jesus ascended, they were fortified with his presence in the form of the Holy Spirit. It is this same spirit that we are able to open ourselves up to even today. The presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit is alive and well 2000 years later. All we need to do to do is to open ourselves to the Spirit and allow him to animate us to be the disciples Jesus calls us to be.