When the forty days were o'er

Though the clouds from sight received him
when the forty days were o’er,
shall our hearts forget his promise,
"I am with you evermore"?

(William C Dix, 1837-1898)

What a rollercoaster of trauma and emotion Jesus's family and friends went through in such a short time! First, there was his agonisingly slow, tortured death, and with it grief, shock, disillusion, despair and naked fear. Then, two days later, he whom they had buried suddenly started reappearing in their midst! Some were surprised by joy, others - understandably - incredulous. For almost seven weeks he was with them, teaching, inspiring, strengthening... and then, just as suddenly as he had reappeared, he disappeared again; this time never to be seen again - at least not in the flesh, this side of heaven.

Had he spent the past seven weeks preparing them for this moment, and his eventual absence, fortifying them for mission? How long before their spirits started drooping, and their hearts began doubting, forgetting even, his promise to be with them for evermore? Fortunately, this strength wasn't long in coming; only ten days later, in next week's feast...