Category Archives: The Empty Tomb

Mary tells all…the Resurrection

My son is alive!!! Jesus is alive! So that’s what He meant by “after three days, I will rise from the dead.”[1][Mk 8:31, 9:31; Mt 17:23, 27:63; Lk 18:33] I saw Him early that Sunday morning. I had been crying, hoping, waiting, and suddenly, there He was. We hugged, and kissed and cried…and hugged. I held Him as close as I had when He was a baby, and again on Friday, when they took Him down from the Cross and laid his lifeless body in my arms…but now He was back…alive!!! I was overjoyed. He was really here. All in white, bright, dazzling white [Lk 9:29], just like the boys described Him on the mountain. But He was also just like Friday, but the wounds were somehow glorious, amazing, wonderful now.

Then, He had to go. I knew everyone was looking for Him. Even when he use to preach and teach, He was always telling the boys: Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. [Mk 1:38]

I asked Him to please see Peter. That poor boy was absolutely devastated; not only had he deserted Jesus when He said He wouldn’t [Mt 26:33,35], not only had he swore he would lay down his life for Him [Jn 13:37]; but then he denied he even knew Him three times, just as Jesus had predicted. [Mk 14:72] Peter’s been inconsolable ever since. Jesus said He knew and would see him after reassuring the other women.

Later, He appeared to the rest of the group. Even though Peter, I, Mary, and the boy’s mothers [Mt 27:56,61;28:1] told them we had seen Jesus, they kept saying the story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe us. [Lk 24:9-11] But then, suddenly, locked doors and all, He was right there and they could see Him and touch Him. I think seeing Him eat in front of them finally convince them He was for real. [Lk 24:36-43]

Of course, dear Thomas, he wasn’t there that Sunday. He refused to be convinced in spite of the fact that all of us told him. Finally, when he saw those glorious holes in my Son’s hands and that gaping gleaming wound in His side, when my Son was right there, standing and talking to him, Thomas was convinced. He even said what I had known all along from Gabriel, from the beginning, from being His mother, that my Son, my Boy, was not only their Jesus; He was also their Lord and their God! [Jn 20:28]

As usual, He is his own Man. He kept telling us that He is in each of us, even the least of these [Mt 25:40-45] Perhaps that’s why sometimes some of us didn’t recognize Him. Even Mary Magdalene who loved Him more than many, even she was fooled early that morning, thinking He was a gardener. Only when He said her name, did she know Him. [Jn 20:15-16]

The most wonderfully humorous appearance was to two of our newcomers. So fervent they were before the crucifixion, and then, when he died, they were completely devastated.[Lk 24:17] Jesus told me about it later. They didn’t recognize Him at all at first; after His Resurrection, He was different somehow…it was as though we needed to adjust our eyes to see Him. They were just so distraught that when my Son, the teaser, pretended not to know what was going on, they lit into Him as if He were a simpleton: Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?[Lk 24:18] Then they poured out their version of who He was, their great expectations of Him, what had happened to Him. They even admitted that they hadn’t believed the women from our group and some of those with us [Lk 24:22,24] that said that He was not in the tomb.

My Son is very patient. He pointed out that they needed to study the Neviʾim[2]: You are slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?[Lk 24:25-26] Well, anyway, after He enlightened them by pointing out where our prophets foretold His suffering, death and resurrection, they wanted Him to stay. So, He joined them for dinner. You must understand that my Son has a unique way of blessing the food. When He did this ritual, they finally recognized Him.

According to those two, He then disappeared. Since He came back, He does that, all of a sudden appear and then equally amazingly disappear. I think He is seeing as many people as possible since He loves them all and knows they all want to see Him. I know once, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once [1Cor 15:6].

Now He is going to leave again. He’s homesick, in a sense. Recently, he’s been saying things like I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father. [Jn 16:28] I guess it’s time for him to return to Him. He said once: I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. [Jn 6:38] He’s done that; he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Now, it’s time that God greatly exalt him. [Phil 2:8-9]

He has been warning us, telling us that he will be leaving from early on[3] but particularly recently at the Passover Supper when He said: My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you….Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered [him], “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” [Jn 13:33,36

We thought, after His crucifixion, that perhaps He was referring to persecution and death. But then, He spoke about His Father’s house…in which there were many dwelling places. He said He was going to prepare a place for us: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where [I] am going you know the way. [Jn 14:3-4]

I recall that He said He had to go in order to send us a helper: I am going to the one who sent me…. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you….When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. [Jn 16:5,7,13] My Son was a great one for Truth, perhaps because He got questioned so often if what He was saying was the Truth. But, as He himself said of Himself and I knew to be true from the moment I conceived Him, I am the way and the truth and the life.[Jn 14:6]

He made it very clear; He came from the Father…into the world.[Jn16:28a], the same Father, who is the Lord God, the “Most High” to whom Gabriel referred[4], the same Father to whom Jesus referred long ago in the Temple when Joseph and I found Him[5], the Father to whom He constantly referred in His teaching as being the One whose will He was carrying out[6], whose actions He was mirroring on earth[7], whose unconditional love he as here to show us[8], but now, He is leaving the world and going back to the Father. [Jn 16:28b] Even His disciples said, “Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech.[Jn 16:29]

Even though He was leaving us in the world, he was very concerned about our safety and prayed to the Father: And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to youI do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. [Jn 17:11,15]

Then it was time for Him to return to His Father. He stayed with us over a month after His death. In a sense, I think He was of two minds, His human nature wanted to stay, but His divine nature wanted to go. He always ultimately followed His divine nature; that was His lode stone, His unerring compass that always was true, was loving, always what His Father wanted and therefore He wanted. I think that he also realized that by staying, He could only be in one place at a time, with one group of people at a time. And He could not send His Spirit. By going to the Father, He then was able to dispense His Spirit everywhere.

Since His death, we travelled to Galilee and back, and now we’re here in Jerusalem again, in the same place we held the Passover. From here, he lead us out to His favorite place, the Mount of Olives near Bethany,[9] He blessed us as He usually did, reminded us to stay here in Jerusalem until He sent the Spirit[10], and that we were to baptize in the names of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sin[11] and teach everyone to do all that He commanded us.

Then He just went up into the sky until He was covered by a cloud. We were so amazed we just kept watching…and finally two angels appeared there with us and broke the spell and told us that He would come again in the same way…

They say: “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” but for us, for some reason, we were all giddy with joy. He was here. He promised to be with us always. He is coming again. We knew the Son of God, and He proved it himself. We touched Him, held Him, heard Him, ate with Him. And He taught us so much, not only by His words but more often by what He did. Some of our family thought He was mad[12], but He was just being my Son. Headstrong, focused, deliberate,…and yet loving, caring, understanding.

Well, I look forward to living in one of those “dwelling places” He mentioned. But, in the meantime, I have to look after my “new” son, John [Jn 19:26] and, of course, the “boys.” I think Jesus gave me them so I wouldn’t miss Him so much…kinda like caring after Him again, these “least ones.” Besides, I have a feeling that this Spirit Jesus is sending is going to change everything….

To be continued…..

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] The Hebrew Bible is organized into three main sections: the Torah, or “Teaching,” also called the Pentateuch or the “Five Books of Moses”; the Neviʾim, or Prophets; and the Ketuvim, or Writings. It is often referred to as the Tanakh, a word combining the first letter from the names of each of the three main divisions.

[3] I will be with you only a little while longer, and then I will go to the one who sent me. You will look for me but not find [me], and where I am you cannot come. [Jn 7:33-34] I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come. [Jn 8:21] The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. [Jn 12:35]. See also OT predictions of his departure: Dt 4:29; Prv 1:28; Is 55:6; Hos 5:6.

[4] Lk 1:28,30,32.

[5] Lk 2:49.

[6] Jn 4:34; 5:30; 14:10, etc.

[7] Jn 5:9; 8:28.

[8] Jn 3:16,17.

[9] Acts 1:12; Lk 24:50.

[10] Lk 24:49.

[11] Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47.

[12] Mk 3:21.

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Peek-a-Boo: In honor of Easter

Do we realize that Jesus played hide and seek after the Resurrection? Here He just pulled off the greatest event of forever and He’s playing peek-a-boo with His followers: in Matthew, He has his angel tell the women: “Now toddle along, and He’ll see you in Galilee…Don’t just stand there gawking, shoo…you’ll see him there.” [A literal translation (chortle) of Mt 28:7]

And then, as if Jesus can’t wait that long to see them, He pops up anyway: Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.[1]

The women’s response is not only touching, it is very telling: They see him, they approach, embrace his feet, and do him homage. [Mt 28:8] It’s the same with Mary Magdalene…she just says: Rabbouni [Jn 20:16] and hugs Him. Complete love, complete recognition, complete trust, complete faith.

But all the men, except John [Jn 20:8], seem much more skeptical. When two of his disciple walk with Him miles on the road, not only do they not recognize Jesus immediately as the women do, but they don’t really hear him in the intonation of his speech when he hails them, questions them, chides them and then interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures which must have been quite a long monologue. They don’t even see that its him until He does something familiar.

The same with the apostles: instead of joy and exuberance, they are startled, terrified and think that they are seeing a ghost. [Lk 24:37] Jesus has to encourage them to look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have… they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed. [Lk 24:39,41] So finally he asks for something to eat, and take the fish and eats it in front of them. [Lk 24:43] So they’re finally convinced and tell Thomas “We have seen the Lord.”[Jn 20:25] Does he believe the at least ten witnesses…nope: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” [Jn 20:25] Now, Jesus is very patient and invites Thomas to do just that, in order that he might not be unbelieving, but believe. [Jn 20:27]

Even when Jesus meets them later during their fishing expedition in Galilee, they still don’t recognize him, none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” but his actions speak louder than simple visual recognition and they realized it was the Lord. [Jn 21:12]

The men don’t get it…there’s none of the complete love, complete recognition, complete trust, complete faith we see immediately in the women, but instead startled fear, terror, continued incredulity, even downright total skepticism. You would think that the guys, especially those who had been with Him from the beginning, from the witness of John the Baptist, from the fishing nets. But no childlike faith on their part. They think they’ve been around the block a few times, they know what’s real and what’s fishy. They’re cued into the flight or fight instincts. And, since they don’t “understand” this, since this appearance of a totally dead man, not only crucified, but skewered with a lance through the heart, is “not possible,” they are going to need a lot of convincing to get them to believe…so there!

Anyway, back to the women: Note how comfortable Jesus is with their oohing and ahhing. To wit, He says: “It’s ok now, it’s alright, dry your tears. I’m here. Now run along and tell the guys to go to Galilee. I’ll meet them there.” [Another literal translation (chortle)…Mt 28:9]

Would that I were more like the women and John than like the men from Missouri!

[1]  Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.”

The valley of the shadow of death: in honor of Holy Saturday

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. [1]

A good topic for Holy Saturday. Indeed, the world today walks through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus is dead; You are dead. You are in the tomb. You are not here. Even in our Churches, the tabernacles are open and empty. As callous as it seems to say it, we can take it if one of us dies. But we had pinned our hopes on You; we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel [Lk 24:21]. If this isn’t the “valley of the shadow of death,” I don’t know what it.

Even today, two millennia later, with knowledge of the end of the play, this is a rough day. We are left bereft. We’ve just been through the forty days of Lent, we’ve just been through Holy Thursday, we have just commemorated Good Friday, why the waiting, can’t we get on with it? Why wait a day? Couldn’t You have risen the next morning and saved us all this grief.

A number of reasons present themselves. And without real death, there can be no true resurrection. It seems that God wanted to make sure there was no doubt You were dead: You die on the cross, Your friends, followers and family see you die, the soldiers see that You are dead, but just to make sure, one of them lances Your heart, Pilate confirms that You are dead before he releases Your body, Joseph, Nicodemus and the women and John certainly see that You are dead and prepare Your body for burial, You are put in the tomb, the Chief Priests and Sanhedrin believe You are dead and seal the tomb and post a guard lest someone take Your body, and finally, You were dead three days, the criterion at that time for someone really to be dead. Thus, the preponderance of evidence point to the fact that You were truly and really dead.

Second, it is the Sabbath. And the Sabbath is a commemoration of the ending of Creation, not the beginning. All was complete. In a sense, You verified that not only was the Passover, new and old, but that your work on the new creation was complete; Your hour had come and Your task was complete and You needed to return to the Father. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. [Lk 23:46] Even God rests on the Sabbath. So, in a sense, it is a validation that You are God, both in the resting and in the providential God-timing of Your resurrection.

According to our creed, today You “descended into Hell.” The Fathers interpreted this as going to gather all the Patriarchs, prophets, followers of God, the good people from ancient times and raise them from Sheol and bring them into the Heavenly Bliss. Perhaps at the same time, perhaps all the ancient souls were together and those who had not been good saw what was going on and wanted to go also…but could not…and that is what is meant by Hell, never able to enjoy the presence of Love, of Peace, of Truth, of God. That truly would be Hell.

So, what do You wish me to learn from today? Everything You do is motivated by Your Love of me, of us, so this, too, has a hidden surprise of Love, it is an “S” for us to find and be delighted. Not just a silver lining, but a golden egg to cherish and await its revelation.

Perhaps the most difficult but important gift is patience. Patience arising from trust, from faith, from hope, from complete and utter acceptance of Your Goodness and grace at all times. All these other gifts, in a sense, predate patience, but patience is the present manifestation, the present actualization, the present incarnation, embodiment of them all, holding them, relishing them, savoring them.

Patience, not an easy gift to master. Please grant me patience, not just today, but every day of my life, for it is the gateway to obedience, to acknowledging Your will, Your preeminence in my life, Your Way. Mary, pray for me that I may have the patience You exhibited in your pregnancy, in taking on the task at hand and leaving the rest, as dire and as bleak as it might seem initially, to God.

Thank You for the gift of Holy Saturday.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Warehousing God II…but no Jesus…an Easter meditation in August

Sometimes the sequel is better than the original…sometimes not. Same theme, let’s run it through again.

This time, let’s keep Jesus in the tomb. Keep that stone rolled across the entrance. Keep that seal there, so nicely affixed by the Religious Authorities. Keep those guards there, watching that his followers don’t come and steal the body and blood….or whatever’s left.

Sound familiar…a little tabernacle…sealed up in Church….guarded least we come and take Jesus out into the world. Now we wouldn’t do that, would we?

Actually, when we arrived, Officer, the tomb was empty…the guards had disappeared. We don’t know where He is. We checked it out…all the clothes were there…all the paraphernalia was there …but no Jesus.

Oh, there were stories that He turned up as a gardener at a Community Co-op. And another that He was down on Skid Row teaching the homeless, or that He was uptown, dining with the big-wigs, or that He was down at the Fed, occupying Wall Street.

Not that we have a corner on the market. There’s been sightings all over. The fire-fighters saw him in California, the Border Patrol reported him carrying a child across the Rio Grande, even sand-bagging in Missouri during the flooding.

And not just here. There’s been reports from all over the world, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Mali, Nigeria.

And it’s never just one side…it’s both sides: Ukraine and Russia, the Palestinians and Israelis, even the Shiites and the Sunnis. I mean, how do the Muslims know it’s Him.

It was better when He was just back, locked up in that tabernacle. At least we had control of Him there. We could take Him out, worship Him, pray and go home. This proliferation is getting out of control! Frank doesn’t do anything…in fact, he’s all for it.

Maybe we should call a synod and figure out what to do.

Why can’t you stay? The Ascension: Other Implied Points: Prayer, Indwelling, Presence, Agape, the Cross, Persecution and Resurrection

The reality of prayer

Then there is the question of prayer.  If Christ was on earth humanly present, why pray to heaven, to a God we cannot see, when He has been manifested here on earth. After all, Jesus himself said: Whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. [Jn 12:45].[1]  The problem is, as explained above, Jesus whole ministry was directed to obedience to the Father.  It is to the Father that He directs us to pray; it is the Father that He commands that we love with all our heart, with all our being, with all our strength, and with all our mind. [Lk 10:27; Deut 6:5]  It is the Father to whom He himself prays, glorifies, pleads, and offers His obedience in atonement for our sins.  While we do not know for what to pray, [Rom 8:26] we are urged to pray unceasingly, particularly that we watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. [Mt 26:41].

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  It also makes the heart and mind be raised to You, Father, as Your Son bid us to do, for You so loved the world that You gave You only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. [Jn 3:16].  Help us to love You back, for that is the only sacrifice which You desire, the only purpose for our existence, the only way to eternal life with You.  Amen. Alleluia!!!

The reality of the Father and I will come and we will dwell with you.

The reality of the indwelling of the Trinity boggles the mind.  If Jesus were still present in human form, this might seem an impossibility. But the Ascension enabled us to grasp the miracle that God Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are in every single human being that is in the state of grace.  They are right here…in you and I. Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. [Jn 14:23]  Jesus likens Himself to a guest at the door: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. [Rev 3:20].  Through this, we have the Divine life within us: If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. [Rom 8:11]

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. [1Cor 6:19-20] The indwelling was gained for us at the price of the Cross.  Our response should and must be to hold sacred all that we do, say and think, for God is not only enabling me to do all I do, but, by recognizing this and extolling Him for His graces and generosity in instilling in us not only physical but divine life, we praise Him…we give Him the recognition, the appreciation, the glory He deserves.

The reality of two or three gathered in my Name

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. [Mt 18:20]  Would we believe this is Jesus were still humanly physically present. This verse follows  and is explained by a most extraordinary verse concerning the efficacy of prayer: Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. [Mt 18:19] NABRE’s note on the Mt 18:20 comments:

“the presence of Jesus guarantees the efficacy of the prayer. This saying is similar to one attributed to a rabbi executed in A.D. 135 at the time of the second Jewish revolt: ‘…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them’ (Pirqê ’Abôt3:3).”

This echoes what Jesus said earlier in his ministry: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Mt 7:7-8]  John puts is slightly differently, tying it in with dwelling in Christ and obeying Him; If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. [Jn 15:7]  Jesus can’t seem to emphasize this basic faith in His care and concern enough: And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it. [Jn 14: 13-14]

Mark reiterates what was quoted from Matthew, prayer is the key: Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. [Mk 11:24] John sums it all up: And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours.  [1Jn 5:14-15]

Father, help me have faith in You that when I say “give us this day our daily bread,” You hear us.  Jesus, deepen my trust in You that when we offer You in Your holy sacrifice to the Father, that You carry us with you and hear our prayers.  Holy Spirit, help me to believe that, though my prayers lack the fervor, the attention, even the appropriateness at times of my request, You will make things right: You come to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. [Rom 8:26-27]

The reality of whatever you do to the least of my brothers.

What if Jesus were right here in human bodily form…would this “least of my brothers” thing still hold.  Well, yes, but…now we are thrown on our own.  He’s not here to rescue us as He did the disciples when the father complained: I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him. [Mt 17:16]  If His disciples could not cure the boy when Jesus was among them, what chance do we have now?

His answer, I believe, lies, as it always does, in deeper faith. Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse* generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me.” [Mt 17:17]  It seems that being with us longer is not the answer. “Why could we not drive it out?”  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [Mt 17:19-20]

You might protest: But that’s not how Mark tells the story.  You’re absolutely right.  This is one of the few instances where Mark has a much longer version of the pericope or vignette than either of the other two Synoptics.  In his version, the challenge to greater faith is exacerbated by the father’s statement: But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” One can sense the palpable exasperation which wells up in Jesus in His reply: “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”

Then comes my most favorite verse of the whole Scripture…for it so encapsulates my existential dilemma: Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” [Mk 9:22-24]  I am an incessant pendulum…swinging crazily between belief and unbelief, faith and doubt, ardent love and tepid acknowledgement.  Elusive faith is there and then it’s not there or hiding or out gallivanting…I don’t know!  Yes, I believe…but achieving even this mustard seed bit is, seemingly beyond my ken, beyond my reach, beyond my existential grasp.

Paul states: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. [Eph 2:8] and we know from Jesus himself that at least understanding that comes through faith is a direct gift:For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. [Mt 16:17]  But, perhaps simultaneous with and synchronized to growth in the Spirit considered in the meditation on Pentecost[2], faith needs to be nurtured and grow: “Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” [Mt 13:18-23]…which brings us back to the mustard seed: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’ [Mt 13:31-32] and now I can see that, through faith, the kingdom of heaven grows in me.

Finally, how can I grow in faith: First, I need to realize that at least I am in good company:  And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” [Lk 17:5]  If we go back to the lack of faith that could not expel the demon from the body, Jesus’ explanation is that  “this kind can only come out through prayer.” [Mk 9:29][3]

The question is, am I in a “catch-22”: Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive, [Mt 21:22] that is, if I need to ask for faith in prayer, and if I need to pray with faith in order to receive that for which I asked, how can I ask and how can I increase in faith. “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” [Lk 18:27]  As we saw above, faith is a gift from God.

Paul’s words give me hope: If we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. [Rom 8: 25-27]

Lord, help me “wait with endurance” for the Holy Spirit to pray that I may have greater faith so that I may love the least of my brothers as You love me.

The reality of taking up the cross and following Him.

Would we really take this seriously if Jesus were still among us in human physical form.  I would be tempted to say: “What cross?  He’s risen.  He’s here. Let’s forget the passion and death and simply rejoice.”  But, as we are all aware, that doesn’t reflect real life.  And, if anything, Jesus came to tell us that being real human beings with all that entails, good and bad, birth and death, Cana and Lazarus, Transfiguration and Crowning with thorns, the Baptism and the water and blood pouring out His side.  Thus, the reality of His existence, His Incarnation, His humanity puts our lives in perspective.  Indeed, Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. [Mt 16: 24-25]

A critical word here is “take.” The cross is not an option, something we may take or leave.  While I cannot avoid the cross, at times I can and do choose to ignore it. I try to cast it away, only to have it dragging behind me as if it were some loathsome and despicable offal.

We all have those aspects of our lives that burden and haunt us, terrorize us and frighten us, inflict mental and physical anguish on ourselves.  Part of this are the vagaries of human existence, pain, suffering, death, disappointment, injustice, ridicule, boredom and ennui.  These, of themselves, can make my life miserable, even tortuous.

But the other part is the evil I would not do that I do [Rom 7:19], the ego that erupts and, like Vesuvius, buries us under our sinful selves.  It is in this very state of degradation, of denial, of misery, of remorse, of despair, that Jesus sees me: For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost. [Lk 19:10]

Jesus, by seeking and saving us, accepts us as we are and enables us to freely choose to also accept ourselves as we are.  John, in the beginning of his 1st Letter, starts out by contrasting Jesus as the Son of God and the Word of Life and us as inveterate sinners: If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1 Jn 8-10]  As the NABRE’s note on this section states: “Denial of the condition of sin is self-deception and even contradictory of divine revelation; there is also the continual possibility of sin’s recurrence.”

Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. [Lk 5:31]  Our sinfulness is a chronic condition.  His saving grace, by His forgiving our sins, by His feeding us on His Body and Blood, what He enables us to not only live with our chronic illness, but to overcome its debilitating effects.

The Cross is a choice. At the same time we pick up our daily bread from the Father, we are faced with the decision to reject or pick up our cross, lives as they are.   Jesus, enable me to follow You with, through and in Your healing grace.  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

The reality of faith in Him in the face of persecution.

If Jesus were still physically present in his human body, we would probably have a much different mindset of how we were to act in the face of persecution.  Yes, we would have seen Him endure the passion and cross in obedience to His Father’s will, but if we were persecuted, as He prophesied that we would be, we would have turned back to Him on earth and pleaded for, even demanded His intervention and help…He was beyond their torments, therefore He must be able to abolish their torments…Our sentiments would be that His miracles alleviated suffering before; He can and should relieve it now.

But that is not the case.  We would not truly hear, truly heed His words: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.[Jn 12:24-25]

We have a very difficult time “getting it”: No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. [Mt 10:24-25]  There is no “duh” moment when Jesus that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. [Mt 16:21]  Instead, we are like Peter; even today we take Him aside and rebuke Him: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.[Mt 16:22] Not today!!! Not in our world of amorphous identities, untruth tolerance and aborted non-entities.”

Indeed, we are taken aback when Jesus gets so bent out of shape and scolds us, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” [Mt. 16:23] And we are in denial and totally ignore His next words: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. [Mt 16:24]

If we didn’t believe that what happened to Him will happen to us, He predicts it: But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagansBrother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. [Mt 10:17-18, 21-22]

Jesus, help me endure to the end.

The reality of the resurrection of my body.

The problem with the resurrection of my body, if Jesus were still physically humanly present, is that (a) we’d have to differentiate between the Lazarus/the daughter of Jairus/the son of the widow of Nain/Tabitha type of resuscitation and eternal resurrection, and (b) having done that, we would be faced with the fact that only Jesus would be walking around truly resurrected.  While Paul’s 1 Cor 15 arguments about faith in the resurrection would still hold, there would be questions in my mind about time passing and nothing happening…and the argument that only the Father, not even the Son, knows in Mt 24:36 would certainly not be reassuring in most senses.

People would be pleading with Jesus to resuscitate their loved ones, even multiple times.  The Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heaven would be questioned.  And one would wonder why we should look to the future resurrection since Jesus is still here.

But Jesus ascended.  And we are here.  And Jesus left us “alone,” a gentle, loving parent who knows when it is time to say “good-bye.”   Not that we are truly alone; his promise to be with us always, even to the end of the world [Mt 28:20] He has fulfilled in being physically present, not just in one place but in tabernacles all over the world, on altars at every Eucharist, in our very selves every time we eat His body and drink His blood.  He is present in the Church, guiding it through the Holy Spirit.  He is present whenever two or three are gathered in His Name [Mt 18:20].  And He is with us even when we just love Him, when the Father and He come and dwell in us. [Jn 14:23]

So we are not alone.  And he promised to prepare a place for us and to return to take us to be with Him [Jn 14:3].  And He has given us His mother, who was indeed assumed, body and soul, and continually cares for us and commends us to follow Him, to do whatever He tells you. [Jn 2:5]. And we believe in and look forward to “the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” [Apostle’s Creed]

Summary:

Jesus left us for many reasons, not the least of which was to send the Spirit: “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father. He is the Spirit of Life, a fountain of water springing up to life eternal. To men, dead in sin, the Father gives life through Him, until, in Christ, He brings to life their mortal bodies. The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple. In them He prays on their behalf and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons. The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits. By the power of the Gospel He makes the Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly He renews it and leads it to perfect union with its Spouse. The Spirit and the Bride both say to Jesus, the Lord, ‘Come!’” Lumen Gentium 4

Now it is our responsibility to get to work, doing the job He gave us to do as He left us: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” [Mt 28:18-20]

Now, pray to the Spirit that He enable us to utilize the personal gifts He gives each of us for the building of the Body of Christ: “It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, ‘allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills, He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit’. These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuineness and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.” Lumen Gentium 12

Oh, yes, the Ascension, Christ’s departure to the Father was and remains extremely important.  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Two Pentecosts: John, Evangelist Of The Spirit, June 10, 2014

[3] Some manuscripts add, “But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting”; this is a variant of the better reading of Mk 9:29.[3]

 

Why can’t you stay? The Ascension: First Implied Points

There are a myriad of less obvious reasons, other truths that Jesus wanted to hammer home, which He could not do if He were still with us.  Perhaps the most obvious is

 

The reality of the Eucharist

Think about it; if the physical Jesus was here, many would be tempted to say, “Why bother with this Bread and Wine when we have the real person right here.”  They/we would not have paid attention to Jesus’ statement: I am the bread that came down from heaven. [Jn 6:41] [1]

Nor His mandate: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. [Jn 6:53]

Nor His promises: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever. [Jn 6:54-58]

Do you really think we would be carrying out His directive: Do this in memory of me [Lk 22:19; 1Cor 11:24] if we had “the real thing” right here on earth, particularly these days when He would probably be viewed 24/7 on His own channel, streaming live on your cell phone.

  • We needed to be weaned off the created real and fed the adult food of the Divine Real.
  • We needed to grok the fact that Jesus is indeed not only spiritually still with us, but now physically present with us…and
  • We need to understand that He is no longer limited by His personal physical body to one location, but He is simultaneously PHYSICALLY PRESENT ALL OVER THE WORLD in the perfect form for simultaneously feeding us physically and spiritually.

And, while this could have been done if He stayed among us, how much faster did we “get it” after He rose into heaven.  For immediately after Pentecost, we witness this understanding already realized in the daily life of the earliest Christian community: They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.[Acts 2:42]

Thus, today, through His ordained priests, we can say: “This, indeed, is my body that is for you. This cup is, indeed, the new covenant in my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.” Indeed, as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. [1Cor 11:24-26, amended]

 

The reality of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit was definitely active in the disciples during the ministry of Jesus as exemplified when He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal [the sick] [Lk 9:1-2].

But, for the most part, they were still frightened, and Jesus predicted that “All of you will be scandalized in me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed.’”[Mt 26:31], nor, even after his resurrection, did they fully understand: When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted [Mt 28:17] and even asked: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” [Acts 1:6].

Jesus knew the Apostles had not absorbed and understood all that He had revealed to them; I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.[Jn 14:25-26] He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. [Jn 7:39]

Indeed He admits that He had “much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” [Jn 16:12-13] After His resurrection, He explicitly gave His Spirit to them:And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. [Jn 20: 22]  But it seems still a limited outpouring…explicitly for the forgiveness and retention of sin.

While the Spirit could have been outpoured fully as He was on Pentecost if Jesus had not ascended, but remained here on earth, we would have never come to rely on the Spirit as Jesus wished us to do. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. [Acts 2:4] While these tongues given the Apostles on Pentecost were very practical, i.e. they we the languages of those who gathered outside and heard the word of God in their native speech, Peter, in his explanation to the crowd what has happened, refers to the prophecy of Joel: I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. [Acts 2:17; Jl 3:1-5], where glossolalia, or the prophesying or “praying in tongues” was foretold.[2]

More to the point, the Spirit is our defense lawyer before the world; instead of He being our “mouthpiece,” we are to be His as He proclaims the Truth of God in the face of opposition: When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. [Mt 10:19-20]

Throughout the Book of Acts, we witness the action of the Spirit in our midst, bringing more and more believers into the community, organizing the community and allocating particular jobs within the Church, infusing the Apostles and even Peter’s shadow with the power to heal, passing judgment through them on evil doers in their midst, demonstrating the changes in “the Law” of what is clean and unclean, both in food and in affiliation, stopping Paul from going some places and beckoning him to come to others, even saving shiploads from drowning and shaking off vipers with immunity.

In particular, we might not have come to understand that the Spirit’s imprimatur is even greater than the Church’s, guiding the sensus fidelium, the sense of faith of the entire people of God within the Churchwith infallible Truth: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth.” Lumen Gentium, 12.

It would be very sad if, because Jesus was still physically present on the earth, we would be frightened to exercise our universal and individual charisms, those special gifts of the Holy Spirit give to each Baptized individual to be used for the benefit of the entire Church, the entire Body of Christ.  We might have been tempted to be lax in their exercise, sloughing off our responsibilities as the Father’s adopted sons and daughters with the excuse that “He here; let Him do it.”

We are held to a high standard of performance, not only in quality but in actual exercise of our gifts.  Lord, grant us each the grace to know our gifts, to appreciate our gifts and to use them to take Your message with us, wherever we go.

 

The reality of the Church

Under the guidance of the Spirit, the Church devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers…they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. [Acts 2:42, 45-47]

While Jesus was among them after His resurrection and before His Ascension, He was the one who nurtured and taught them, whose personal charisma kept them together. Now that He has Ascended and the Spirit has taken charge, Christ is in their midst because they are two or three gathered together and (He is) there in the midst of them [Mt 18:20], and they are functioning as a community.

As the Church grew, the Apostles appointed deacons and they all went out from Jerusalem to preach, teach and baptize. And Peter was taught by the Spirit of the universal nature of the call of Christ [Acts 10] and that no one is to be excluded. And Jesus calls Paul to carry His message to the Gentiles…and the word spreads throughout Asia Minor, Africa, Greece and on to Rome.

The Church is no longer simply where Jesus is humanly present, but becomes world wide in its presence. The Church recognizes leaders and a focal home, first in Jerusalem, and then in Rome. While all followers take up the mandate to teach all nations, there is a unified structure, a shared Good News, a growing tradition, a learning curve of those things bound and those things loosed…and all this under the guidance of the Spirit while carrying Jesus with them in the Word, in the breaking of the Bread, in the common faith, in the love for one another.

When Jesus was present, even then and, perhaps especially then, there were squabbles about who is the greatest in the kingdom, who will sit at Jesus right and left hand, and they became indignant….Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. [Mt 20:24-27]

But this didn’t take hold until after Jesus ascended, had left them, and the Spirit comes; He will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.[Jn 14:26].  And his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken:[Jn 2:22] the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Mt 20:28]…and they finally get it. That’s what the Church is, we finally got it…but it took His leaving and the Spirit coming to make that happen.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] See Paul on the proper use of glossolalia: 1 Cor 14:6-19

Why can’t you stay? Part 2: Positive Benefits from the Ascension Section A: Stated Points

So what are the positive benefits of the Ascension. What do we gain from His Ascension? Jesus states some points and implies others:

The stated points are clustered in John 14.  There, Jesus points out three major gifts:

(1) In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places...And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. [Jn 14:2-3]. [1]  This absence is temporary.  He will come again.  He will take us with Him.  We will live in places He has prepared for us.  [In other translations, “houses” or “mansions” are used for “places.”  It is interesting that Jesus the earthly carpenter/builder carries His trade with Him into heaven.]

(2) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. [Jn 14:16-17] The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. [Jn 14:26] But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. [Jn 16:7; see Jn 16:8-14] He will give us a Defender, a companion, the Spirit of truth.  Jesus must go to send the Spirit.  The Spirit will teach us everything we need to know.

(3) I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. [Jn 14:18-20] I am with you always, even to the end of the age. [Mt. 28:20]  Though He will seem to have left us, He has not left us.  He is always with us.

Then Jesus adds another reason. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. [Jn 14:27-29]  The final reason Jesus gives is difficult to understand; if we love Jesus, we are to be happy that He is going to the Father.  Why? First, we are to be happy that He is reunited with His Father and our Father.  This is a good thing for relationships are most important.  Jesus will also be able to plead our case before the Father, having had personal experience being human.

While this is true, Jesus gives a more profound reason: for the Father is greater than I. It was absolutely necessary for Jesus to ascend to the Father so that our attention would be focused where His attention was always focused, on the Father.  The purpose of His entire existence on earth was to do His Father’s will.  And He calls us to follow His example. We are here to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind. [Deut. 6:5; Lk 10:27; Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30] We are to recognize that Jesus must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet...When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will [also] be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. [1Cor 15:25-28] This is why Jesus prays.  This is why we pray: “Our Father.”  Not “Our Jesus,” but as Jesus Himself prayed, “Father,” [Mt 11:25-26; Jh 11:44; 12:27; 17:1-26], even that the Father’s cup be taken from him, [Lk 22:41 et al.], and on the Cross, we have His most poignant prayers to his Father, asking forgiveness for all, for they do not know what they do, [Lk 23:34, et al.] praying the ultimate Psalm of trust in the darkness of defeat, My God, My God, why have You forsaken me, [Ps 22; Mt 27:46] and ultimately, putting His life in His Father’s hands: Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”[Ps 31; Lk 23:46]

The implied reasons for the Ascension can be teased out of Jesus’ final words in Matthew: 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. [Mt 28: 19-20]

Jesus tells us we have a job to do. Would we leave him if he stayed? If Jesus had stayed with us, we would never get it. We would still be on the Mount of Olives with the other disciples, dumbfounded, mouths gaping, wondering when He will return…no wonder He sent angels to shock us back to reality: Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? [Acts 1:11] A true “duh” question, the implication being, “He gave you a job to do.  Get with it.”

We would always be reporting back, not trusting in ourselves to be Him in the world in which we find ourselves.  By ascending, He kicked us out of the nest of discipleship, of learners, and into the pasture of apostleship, of teachers.  We are sent as messengers, “apostolos,” “sent from” Jesus to all nations, all the world.

We are sent as shepherds who have the smell of the sheep [Pope Francis I]. We are to teach by word and example all that He has commanded us.  Now that He has ascended, Teresa of Avila, great doctor of the Church, has described our status in the world:

Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.  Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, you are his body…Christ has no body now on earth but yours.[2]

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. He knew we couldn’t do it alone; He never intended that we do it alone. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. [Mt 11:29-30] A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs.  When we get in yolk with Jesus, we can do anything.

But there is even another Divinely Providential motive for the Ascension. Jesus came to show us the Father: If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him. [Jn 14:7]  Not that we get it…we still echo Philip: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”[Jn 14:8-9]

[In Section Two: Some thoughts on the implied points, e.g. Eucharist, Church, etc.]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] http://www.journeywithjesus.net/PoemsAndPrayers/Teresa_Of_Avila_Christ_Has_No_Body.shtml