Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Not to abandon us, but to be our hope

THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD, May 1, 2008:

“Christ, the mediator between God and humanity, judge of the world and Lord of all, has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where he has gone, we hope to follow.”

Today’s feast of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, marks something of an ending – it commemorates the end of Jesus time with us on earth as a man. It has a certain liturgical completeness as it marks 40 days after Easter in balance to the 40 days of preparing for Easter in Lent. But, this feast doesn’t try and explain how the Ascension happened – that is a mystery; instead, it sheds light on what it all means. As we heard in the passage I just shared from today’s Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer, “Christ…has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope.”

Ascension has two strong qualities – one of hope and promise; and another of challenge and commissioning. Jesus didn’t ascend to an unknown place. Jesus didn’t disappear into the clouds and now no one knows where He is. Jesus didn’t simply vanish from our sight never to be seen or heard from again. No instead, “Where He has gone, we hope to follow.” Jesus attained the goal of all humanity – an eternity in Heaven; an eternity caught up in the loving gaze and grace of God the Father; and eternity of glory and perfection that can only be found in Heaven. And, we – all of us who have been baptized into life in Christ – we hope to follow Him to that place. This is the hope and promise of Ascension.

Just as powerful is this reminder of our own eternal and glorious destiny, is the fact that Jesus has left everything else in our hands until the end of time. As Jesus returns to the Father, He commissions us, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Jesus brought to us the most incredible gifts ever – He brought us the Gospel; He brought us the Sacraments; He brought us the Church. And then, He left them in our hands to proclaim those sacred Words; share those holy gifts; and welcome the world to take part in this great mystery of faith.

Paul, again reminds us of this in the reading from Ephesians, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…for us who believe.” We are the hope of the Gospel; we are the hope of Jesus. We must all pick up the call that He has given us to preach the Good News to the ends of the earth. Our mission is to bear witness to the Gospel and to make disciples of all nations.

I saw a bumper sticker recently that said, “Jesus is coming…look busy!” As we get perhaps a bit nervous about so large a mission, we remember another celebration that will be upon us in 10 days – the Feast of Pentecost. Jesus gave us the most tremendous mission in all of history, but He did not ask us to accomplish it on our own. He will send His promised Spirit to empower us from on high by his abiding presence. Our work lies in opening ourselves up to the grace of His Word, His Sacraments, and His Holy Spirit. If we do these things, mountains will be moved by our faith.

“Christ, the mediator between God and humanity, judge of the world and Lord of all, has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where he has gone, we hope to follow.”

May God give you peace.

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