From the few verses of St. Mathew’s Gospel we get the impression that Jesus said, “Hello, good to see you, got to go.” Jesus had given plenty of hints that He would go back to the Father, but the disciples weren’t listening.
When we do not want someone to leave, we ignore them when they tell us that it’s getting late. Time to go. We change the subject. Comes a time when we have to accept reality. Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus left. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. Naturally, the birth of a baby gets much more publicity than the farewell of an adult. Christmas pulls at our heart strings and enjoys cross-cultural popularity. The Ascension of the Lord is sort of anti-climactic. No gift giving, no tree to decorate, no special food to share—just a group of disciples who watched Jesus rise in the clouds. However, the Mystery is all connected. Jesus became one of us in every way, except sin. He embraced the Incarnation and accepted our human limitations to show us how to be human. Jesus grew up. He got into a lot of trouble for speaking the truth that we are all loved by God, regardless of social status, personal merits, sinful condition. The Lord knew that the world was not ready, perhaps would never be ready, because folks had become complacent—comfortable with the distinctions. For approximately three years Jesus taught His disciples a new way: forgive your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, love as you want to be loved. Our Lord knew that His teaching would get Him killed. The Passion and Death were difficult to accept. But then came the Resurrection and all seemed well again. Like they could take up where they left off. Not so. New beginning meant a new beginning.
Just when everyone was happy again, Jesus said that He had to return to the Father. Another departure, another goodbye. But isn’t that the way life is? Isn’t our reality about new beginnings and having to say goodbye? The life of Jesus is like a mirror for our life. We are part of Him; He is part of us. Our life is caught up in the Paschal Mystery, the Mystery of who God is. At the right hand of the Father sits a human body just like the one we have. We celebrate that our humanity was not only redeemed but elevated to heaven forever. We put ourselves down so easily. Depression is enjoying an all-time “high”. Given the fact that we had to shelter at home, mental health professionals have stated that both young and old have suffered from the lack of social activity. No doubt that many of us forget who we are. God is inside of us.
Negative energy is abundant given the pandemic that has contaminated so many people and caused the death of loved ones. Negativity is easy to foster. Positive thinking is more difficult, especially when we feel threatened. The little group of disciples felt threatened when Jesus told them that He was leaving. Starting something new can seem threatening. No one knows what the “new normal” will be. Truth be told, not so sure we knew what the “old normal” was. Every day brings new challenges and we are given the grace to cope with whatever comes our way. Jesus Christ did not abandon us. He is closer to us than when He walked the earth. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church. We still have much work ahead. In the brief 2000 years we have only begun to evangelize. The proclamation of the Gospel has to be our priority, beginning in our home and by our personal example. During this crisis we have had countless opportunities to be patient, to listen, to forgive. Unfortunately, much time has been wasted on worrying, which solves nothing. Remember that a prune is a worried plum. Worrying is closely related to guilt—they are wasted emotions. Time to embrace a new beginning. Just like the first disciples, we are not alone. Although Jesus is in heaven, He is also here with us, in every step we take. To be cautious is wise; to be fearful is not from God. Over 600 times in the Bible God says, “Be not afraid.” We belong to Him and where He has gone, we hope to follow.
We live in a wonderful time, filled with opportunity to give witness to the Lord of our life. To Him be all glory and honor and power.