When I traveled with the Catholic Press Association to the Holy Land, the Upper Room was one of the holy places that stole my heart.
I was in a group of six US journalists, all traveled as guests of the Israel Ministry of Tourism as part of Pope Francis’ historic Holy Land Pilgrimage in May, 2014. We visited the places that Jesus and Mary walked, prayed, ate, and worked. We saw the places where Jesus suffered his Passion, was Crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead.
We also visited the site of the Upper Room, where Jesus shared his last meal with his disciples, appeared to them after his Resurrection, and where the disciples and Mary spent nine days prayerfully awaiting the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.
We visited the site, but scheduling snafus prohibited us from entering the Room itself.
Still, even standing out on the streets of Jerusalem looking up at the Room’s windows, I could feel the impact of what had happened there. It was grace-filled, awesome, and inspiring.
Now I have the chance to go back there and to truly enter the Room through the eyes of Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi, pastor of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland, and the priest of the Archdiocese of Washington.
In his latest book, Meeting God in the Upper Room: Three Moments to Change Your Life (Servant, 2016 $14.99), Msgr. Vaghi takes us to the Upper Room, giving us a chance to become one of our Lord’s disciples.
Here is what Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote in his Foreword:
As each follower of Jesus recognizes the call to be any vandalizing disciple, we take on the responsibility of renewing our faith, of standing firm in the conviction of its truth and finally of sharing it. Monsignor Vaghi provides guidance and support for all three of those elements in the life of the Christian today who truly wants to take on the mission that came to life in the Upper Room.
That’s exactly what the author does. The book is divided into three parts:
- The Last Supper
- Post-Resurrection Appearances
- Pentecost and Its Effects
The chapters within each part examine the various facets of what took place in the Upper Room, first between Jesus and his disciples and then between his disciples after his Ascension into heaven.
The book is incredibly well done, and I’m delighted to be able to return to the Upper Room through the words of Msgr. Vaghi. he also points out the institution of three of the sacraments that Catholics may either take for granted are not fully understand – Eucharist, Holy Orders, and Penance.
I had never connected the Sacrament of Reconciliation with is the Upper Room before. But, the way Msgr. Vaghi describes it makes perfect sense. He cites the moment when, in John’s Gospel, the risen Lord “breathed” on the apostles and said to them, “receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22 – 23).
This moment in the Upper Room is a miracle and a mystery even greater then when God first breathed life into Adam, for this “breath” will undo the sin of Adam, the Heritage of sin that is ours. The “yes” of Mary, the “New Eve,” broke the power of the evil one that had orchestrated the downfall of our first parents. The surrender of Christ, the “New Adam,” to the will of God ensure that all of creation would be returned to its former splendor. And all of it was brought about by the movement of the Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Mother.(P.68)
Msgr. Vaghi explains that, by breathing the Spirit into the Upper Room, Jesus showed a “new and mighty work of the Spirit: not only is the author of life, but as the healer and restore as well.” For me, that’s a very fruitful envisioning of this sacrament that is so vital to our faith.
I probably could quote most of the book, because I think it is so packed with information, inspiration, and formation. But, that would spoil it for you. Instead, I will leave you with one last comment from the final chapter:
Like the apostles, you and I are called in our day to heal and forgive – to forgive 7×70 times. We are challenged to experience ever a new the knowledge of our salvation by the forgiveness of our sins, and help others to come to that same knowledge. (P.107)
Lent is just around the corner! Ash Wednesday is March 1 this year, and that will come very quickly. Meeting God in the Upper Room is, in my opinion, perfect for Lenten reading. What better way to spend this sacred time then to travel back to the place where it all actually occurred?
Purchase your copy of Msgr. Vaghi’s wonderful new book here: