Ascension of the Lord (José Antonio Pagola)

Ross Reyes DizonHomilies and reflections, Year CLeave a Comment

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The Gospels offer us different keys to understanding how the first Christian communities began their historical journey without Jesus’ presence, without him leading them. Perhaps, it was not all as simple as we sometimes imagine. How did they understand and live out their relationship with him, once he had disappeared from the earth?

Matthew does not say a word about Jesus’ ascension to heaven. The Gospel of Matthew ends with a farewell scene on a mountain in Galilee. There Jesus makes this solemn promise to them, Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. The disciples must not feel his absence. Jesus will always be with them. But how?

Luke offers a different vision. In the last scene of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus parted from them and was taken up to heaven. The disciples have to accept very realistically the separation: Jesus now lives in the mystery of God. But he blesses his disciples as he goes up to the Father. Jesus’ followers begin their journey protected by that blessing with which he healed the sick, forgave sinners and embraced the children.

John the Evangelist puts in Jesus’ mouth some words that offer another key. Saying goodbye to his disciples, Jesus tells them: Because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you, it is better for you that I go.  For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. The disciples’ sadness is understandable. They want the security that Jesus’ nearness provides. It is the temptation to live in an infantile manner under the protection of the Teacher.

Jesus’ response reveals a wise way of teaching. His absence will make his followers grow in maturity. He leaves them the seal of his Spirit. The Spirit will be the one to foster, in Jesus’ absence, adult and responsible growth in his followers. It is good to remember this when growing among us, it seems, is a certain fear of creativity, the temptation to inaction or a nostalgia for a Christianity designed for other times and another culture.

We Christians have fallen more than once throughout history to the temptation of living out our following of Jesus in infantile ways. The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord reminds us that, with the end of Jesus’ historical presence, we now are living “the time of the Spirit,” a time of creativity and of responsible growth. The Spirit does not provide Jesus’ followers with “eternal prescriptions.” The Spirit gives us light and the breath of life, so that we may always keep looking for new ways to reproduce his action today. That is how he leads us to the full truth of Jesus.

May 8, 2016
Ascension (C)
Luke 24, 46-53

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