The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
June 2, 2019 – Ascension of the Lord - Luke 24:46-53
Family departures can often be difficult. Usually they initiate spatial separation from loved ones. “Children” leave home for school, a new job or military service. Most of the time, sadness comes to the surface. But not always. When our children left home to study (hopefully) at schools far from home or when they “left” for a new job, I felt a mixture of joy and sorrow. Joy arose from thoughts of their going to better places for them, settings where they would enjoy new people and places, new opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. But I would miss them, so if I was deeply affected as they moved out of sight - my tears were a mix of joy and sorrow. Good to see you go into newness for you and why do you have to leave? Typical reactions in families.
Today we recall the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. When I first learned about this event, I was a youngster. Being a student in a Catholic School, the day when we celebrated the Ascension was on a Thursday. It was a Holy Day of Obligation. Mass attendance was required of all Catholics. So, the day began with the whole student body of St. Joseph Catholic School gathered for eight-o’clock Mass. And then we were dismissed. We were free to roam the whole world while our public-school friends were kept all-day in school. This added to my experience of the day, which was already “interesting” as I thought about Jesus rising into the clouds. ...
I was likely shown by a nun teacher an artistic rendering of this happening. Up, up and away went Jesus. His followers watched him disappear into the clouds above. Very impressive.
Yet as believers in Christ Risen, we know that Jesus remains present to us. Belief in the contemporary Christ is complicated. We believe that Jesus “sits at the right hand of the Father” while at the same time Jesus remains with us. He is present in the Eucharist. He is present when we reflect on and pray connected with God’s word in Scripture. And Christ is especially present in the love between us. A traditional prayer of the church includes the belief that where charity and love are present, there is God, there is Christ. And this is not simply an imaginative idea. It’s real!
In that sense, when we truly love, when we pay attention to each other, when we help each other make it though the day, we are in the immediate presence of God and that includes the Risen Christ. So, one thought for this day is that we ourselves are already in the process of “ascending,” just as Jesus did on that hill outside a small village called Bethany.
©David M. Thomas, PhD