Divine Dialogue of God with the Soul
Because this weekend there are several options for the Gospel reading, I have decided to write about the Feast of the Ascension. Depending on your diocese, your parish will celebrate this feast this Thursday the 26th or next Sunday, the 29th of May.
The Ascension marks the day that Jesus gathered his disciples on a mount forty days after His resurrection and, after speaking to them, ascended (rose) into Heaven before their eyes. The mystery of this miracle fills us with awe. No one saw His resurrection, but we know there were many witnesses to Jesus’ rising in human form into heaven. It’s hard for us to imagine this, so far from any experience we’ve ever had. Jesus was there, and suddenly (or perhaps gradually) He began to move upward ‘into the clouds’ until they could see Him no longer. The witnesses must have been speechless as they stood watching this happen, because the book of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:1-11) tells us that suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them—surprising in itself—and asked them why they were ‘standing there looking at the sky.’ ‘Why?’ indeed! What do you suppose they were thinking, those disciples of Jesus? ‘Please don’t go and leave us alone!’ Or, “Will I ever see Him again?” or “Ah, now He will intercede for us with the Father!” The mother of Jesus may have been there as well. How much did Mary understand? Had Jesus told her He was leaving?
I propose that every person standing there as Jesus disappeared into the heavens must have had a different experience just as each of us reading this does. We are all unique in our relationship with God, and our individual responses to Him are unique. Throughout the course of our lives, from the darkest moments of grief to the most profound experience of him in prayer, God moves in us according to His will and our need, drawing us ever closer to Him, ever understanding our fears and hopes, our anger or confusion, our longing for Grace and our desire for His presence. At those times when we seek Him but cannot find Him we are like the apostles on Ascension day. When we exult in His nearness to us in prayer we are like them in the days of His life with them in Galilee and Jerusalem. When we cannot understand His Will we are like them during the awful time of His passion and death, and when we are overcome with surprise at what God is doing in us, we are like them in the moment when the two men in white appeared before them and asked them why they were looking up at the sky. The profound mystery of God is that from conception to the end of our earthly life God is Emmanuel for us—God with us and in us. The meaning of faith is that we must seek and love and trust Him Whom we cannot see.
As we ponder the Ascension of Jesus into heaven forty days after the resurrection, let us pray to our beloved Blessed Mother and to the apostles, asking for the same faith they had when, deprived of His earthly presence in the years after His ascension to the Father, they continued to carry out His Will for them, even unto death. Time is so short and fraught with trials, but eternity will be so long and so inconceivable in its ecstasy. On this feast of hope, when the apostles stood looking up into the sky searching for Jesus whom they loved, we are reminded that He never left us, but remains with us. He promised us at the last Supper,
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.
(John 14: 23)