Ascension/7th Sunday in Easter A-2020
My brothers and sisters in the Lord!
This Easter season has been truly challenging for us. Each year we await with anticipation the celebration of this day, and yet the Coronavirus-19 had different plans for us. Our journey through the Lenten Season was not one we had expected it to be. WE were not able to spend the time in churches or with loved ones as we had been used to. And now we have gone through the motions of the Easter Season with no Mass celebrated in our beautiful church. The model being that Easter begins in joy but Eastertide with a hint of sadness. Just as Good Friday is the day of great sorrow , which makes way for the joy of Easter, so the feast of the Ascension of the Lord can bring a different sort of feeling of sadness, which makes way for the joy of Pentecost. The hint of sadness of the feast of the Ascension of the Lord is something like that of our first or last day in school, a change of job, or, for some, perhaps, ordination or entry into religious life, and for us the beginning and hopefully soon the end of this crippling time for all of us. It is not the sadness of death, but rather of the many separations we endure in this life if we are to grow as people. The difference with the departure of Christ is that we are called not just to grow as people but rather to grow in Christ himself.
If we do not leave something behind, a school, a place of work, family or friends , we often find that the greater the love that we had there, the more present the past places and the people are to us. Memory is as much an act of love as intelligence. Or to put it another way, love never really leaves anything behind. We take it with us on the road to new things.
There is a subtle difference about how we react to the past. People who just want to be in the past don’t really love the past; they hate the present. But we should love the past, out of hope for the future. In that love, we want to be on our way to the future where we will all be one. We take the past with us, remembering with love the people and the places God gave us to live with and in. Even if we had a terrible past, we can still have some hope that out of the evils of the past, God will prepare a greater good.
Our Faith tells us that all is prepared. There are many days when we do not know what is to happen or what we are to do. We feel that, like the disciples did on the day of Christ’s ascension, we are still standing on the road looking up at the sky where Jesus has ascended. We forget that Christ is the road. It is in his life that we live. So prayer is not just the way of receiving instructions about what to do next. Prayer lets us go farther down the road without needing to know where it will lead us. The priestly prayer of Christ , as it is called, part of which we hear , is a conversation with the Father where Jesus explains that his leaving us behind is an act of love.
It is love because perfect love always means trusting the person we love. We might say that the Father knows this , but this prayer is an attempt to put in human terms the perfect conversation between the Father and the Son, in which all things as said , in a sort of silence.
There is a silence which is saying nothing, but there is a silence which says everything. Sometimes we experience that in love, where we are suddenly silent because we know that we are sharing great things. The infinite love of the Father and the Son is something like that. Yet we need this to be broken down into words, and this is what the Gospel of John does. These words, as Peter says, are the words of eternal life.
One thing that impressed the Romans about the Jews was the fact that so many of them could read. They learned to read because they had their holy scriptures, and they read them constantly. They did not always understand them in the same way. Yet without that knowledge of their scripture, Jesus could not have begun his ministry. He was the key to their scriptures. My friends ,If you read at all, read the Bible. We will never pray well if we ignore the great prayer of Christ in the Gospel. Today’s feast of the Ascension prepares us for the Feast of Pentecost when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We can look towards heaven and see the way in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son to draw us into the Father’s love. The Holy Spirit prompts us into finding ways to spread the Gospel. Often this will happen through the witness of love lived out in families and small steps that build up better relationships. It is in this way that we become missionary disciples of Jesus. We are asked to proclaim our faith. A word of hope , a word of encouragement , are the small steps of love which give hope and speak of the promise we believe. The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord truly is a feast when we can rejoice and celebrate with the great cloud of witnesses who have already gone home to the Lord. Even the simplest of saints were always eager to hear more about the word of God. So, my brothers and sisters, I challenge you to read, think, pray; and you will know Christ’s call to you, and you will learn what to do next.