Well, it’s 40 days since the Resurrection. Jesus is risen! Alleluia! The tomb was empty and many were confused and upset by this event. What did it mean? The apostles knew what it meant because Jesus appeared to them multiple times after He rose from the dead and they had plenty of conversations. But now, it’s time for Jesus to go Home to His (ours, too!) Heavenly Father.
Jesus, as always, shows us the way because, as He told us He IS the Way! And the Truth and the Life. All that is on display this Ascension Thursday, as it is known in my Church. Jesus will ascend to the Father, to God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, of all that is visible and invisible! He leads the way, as any good leader knows to do. It’s a moment for good leaders to encourage their followers, “I’ll go before you; it’ll be OK.” In the Gospel of Matthew, the narrator declares that the apostles who had been summoned to witness this momentous occasion “doubted.” They, to be precise, “worshiped, though the doubted.”
I wonder if that doubt wasn’t based on fear? They feared that Jesus was leaving them again only this time, He would not return. They would never know the comfort, peace, and strength they always had when Jesus was with them. And so, of course knowing their concern, their worry, Jesus says, without condemnation, “…I am with you always, until the end of the age.” He is with them; He is with us. God with us. Emmanuel. We’ve come full circle in Matthew’s Gospel. Remember during Advent, as Christmas which is the celebration of Jesus’ birth approaches, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that Jesus is Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.” The last words of Jesus before He ascends are some of the first words said about Him before He is born of the Virgin Mary to be our Savior. The symmetry of this is beautiful. Hats off to you, Matthew! Well done, (of course), Lord, Author of life!
Now, it is important to recall that earlier, during the Last Supper discourse, Jesus has promised that He will send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. And so, because our God is a Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One! If we have the Holy Spirit, we have Jesus and the Father, too! Of course, as a Catholic, I believe we have Jesus, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist, as well. And that is certainly a beautiful thing. But all of us, if we ask and are open to receiving, can have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
With the Holy Spirit we find that same comfort, peace and strength that the apostles knew when Jesus was physically with them, when they could see and touch Him. We can experience those same blessings, and we can know what to say, just as Jesus promised the apostles they will know, in defending Jesus and the Good News of His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, His sending of the Holy Spirit and all for love of us!
We will be able, as Peter directs in his first letter, to give a reason for the hope that is in us! God loved us into being, saves us from ourselves, and forgives even when we don’t think we are forgivable. The Holy Spirit remains to give us so many amazing gifts that keep us creative, productive, loving, joyful, and passionate in our love of the Lord and of all the people that God created. And then, one day we will follow Jesus Home. We don’t have to be afraid or worried now and we won’t have to be afraid then.
I pray that we can all follow our Leader to that Heavenly glory!