Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Happy Easter, and Happy Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord to Heaven!
Today we recall and celebrate the return of Jesus to the Father. I have mixed feelings about this feast day. It is glorious because Jesus was sent by the Father for the purpose of redeeming mankind. His return to the Father means His work of Salvation is complete! Amen, and Alleluia! Humanly speaking my heart sinks a little because Jesus is going back to the Father. He is no longer here, in His human nature, walking among us as He did with the Apostles. My heart sinks, at first, because of an immature jealousy of the Apostles, and then, with a post-Pentecost understanding, with compassion for the Apostles. What must they have thought, having “lost” Jesus to His crucifixion, getting Him back three days later, and then 40 Days after that He goes away, again!
Jesus knows His Apostles (and me) better than anyone, and in His great compassion, He has prepared them (and me) for this great event. To recap the past three Sundays, Jesus’ message to His Apostles has been one of reassurance.
4th Sunday of Easter: “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep…Whoever enters through me will be saved…A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10: 7-10
5th Sunday of Easter: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14: 1-6
6th Sunday of Easter: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth… you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14: 15-18
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14: 21
Let’s go back to my sinking heart filled with compassion for the Apostles. Just over a month ago, they witnessed the most barbaric act the Roman Empire could devise to inflict on an enemy of Caesar. Crucifixion was the common practice for non-Roman criminals who earned capital punishment. But Jesus is uncommon, and innocent of any crime. This person, whom for three years, the Apostles followed and witnessed His teaching, healings, miracles, and love for the unlovable was brutally betrayed by His own, beaten, mocked, executed, and buried. At the time they had lost Jesus. He was dead and buried. This loss is keenly felt through the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Then, the women come with the news that the tomb is empty and Peter and John run to see for themselves. Jesus, glorified, comes into the midst of the Apostles in a locked room. He is risen indeed! Can you imagine the rollercoaster ride of human emotions?
Now for today, the Ascension. Imagine the Apostles. Jesus asks them to meet Him on a mountain. He gives them the monumental task of discipling ALL NATIONS, to baptize and teach them ALL He taught them, promises to be with them always, and then…rises up before their very eyes and a cloud takes him from their sight! Wait! What? Jesus, where did you go? Hey, He did this once before…maybe He will be back? The Apostles hang around for a bit looking up at the heavens. Angles had to tell them to get back to Jerusalem, like Jesus told them, to wait for the promised Advocate. I cannot image what must have been going through their minds. I impose doubt, but in doing so I neglect the faith that must have developed because of what they saw with their own eyes. This is where my jealousy of the Apostle enters…to have seen, heard, touched Jesus, to have witnessed the miracles…I cannot image what that must have really been like!
Enter the post-Pentecost mind and eyes of faith. By the Grace of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost I can see that through the Church, I am not so lacking in encountering Jesus. Go back through the Gospels from the last three Sundays…Jesus, Himself, tells not only His Apostles, but us…He is the gate, we too can come to the Father through HIM, He is preparing a place for us; I know the way because I know Him, Who IS the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE; He asks the Father to send another Advocate; He will not leave me orphaned; If I love Him, I am loved also by the Father, and Jesus will reveal Himself to me! My sinking heart is lifted, and I rejoice!
My Risen Lord is triumphantly at the right-hand of the Father, but He is very much STILL WITH me! How, in the Eucharist, the Word of God, the Church, His Mystical Body, through the Sacraments, the Priesthood, Prayer, and in the way we live and treat those whom we encounter. I am engulfed in Christ, if I only have the eyes to recognize it!
Happy Easter and Happy Feast of the Ascension!