“Saying goodbye always make my throat hurt.” ~ Charlie Brown
Today’s 1st Reading (Acts 1:1-11) captures the glorious and much-anticipated event that Jesus has been preparing his disciples for over the last few weeks, his Ascension into Heaven. As those of you who have been reading John’s anticipatory Gospel account of Jesus’ pending departure know, the Son of God has been preparing and instructing his disciples for this moment, encouraging and emboldening them to go forth with confidence, for the Holy Spirit will guide then until he comes again.
In the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel (28:16-20), chosen for Ascension Sunday, Jesus tells his Apostles that “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.” This too is our vocation, to bring the joy of the Gospel message to though devoid of joy. To bring hope to the hopeless, the truth to those who find themselves sifting through the secular wreckage in search of it.
The formal Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord was actually recognized by the Universal Church on Thursday, wherein Jesus tells his disciples that they will be baptized “in a few days,” baptized in the Pentecostal fire of the Holy Spirit. In this instance, it would be a mere 10 days from Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven until the Pentecost, a far cry from the little while that he alludes to regarding his second coming in John 16:16-20. https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/ENTER-The-Holy-Spirit-for-a-little-while.
I always contemplate these precursory Gospel passages whenever I pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and reflect upon the anticipation of this ethereal moment in the Christian Faith Story by way of the second decade. Jesus’ concern for his disciples is evident, and it underscores just how much he loved them. Jesus would of course forever be obedient to God the Father and his divine plan, but I can’t help but wonder if, in his humanity, he had mixed emotions about departing the Earth and leaving his friends. In a moment of prayer to the Father, he even went so far as to lament “I wish that they too could be going where I am going.” (John 17:24). .
But we know that Jesus is in fact always with us. By way of the Holy Eucharist, the faithful experience Jesus’ real presence ~ body, blood, soul and divinity ~ the food for the journey that nourishes and refreshes our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. This seemingly never-ending pandemic has introduced many to the idea of Spiritual Communion https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/On-Spiritual-Communion. “What a source of grace there is in spiritual communion,” Saint Jose Maria Escriva once said, urging the faithful to “practice it frequently and you’ll have greater presence of God and closer union with him in all your actions.”
We have at our fingertips the Gospels as well, Jesus’ very life chronicled in a way that we may learn from “the word made flesh,” growing in wisdom, patience, humility and holiness, all qualities that Jesus possessed and displayed throughout his life.
"This Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will return to you in the same way as you have seen him going into Heaven." These are the closing words if today’s 1st Reading (Acts 1:11), reminding us that we have hope on our side as well, the promise of everlasting life in God’s Kingdom for those who run the race, compete well for the faith and persevere.
We must take heart in the fact that Jesus’ heavenly homecoming to his Father prepares the way for our homecoming to be with Him forever (John 14:2-4). For as the great evangelist and scholar Oswald Chambers once said “at his Ascension our Lord entered Heaven, and he keeps the door open for humanity to enter.”