Friday, May 25, 2007

Ascension Thursday

Here we are, 40 days after the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and we prepare ourselves to say goodbye to Him. Yet, are we really saying goodbye? Jesus may be going away, but He is not leaving us forever, to fend for ourselves. He said He would send His Holy Spirit, yet the only way the Holy Spirit could come is if Jesus would go away. Jesus also said that He would return and take us with Him, so that where He is, we also would be. That is what the Ascension is all about: Jesus preparing the way for us to join Him in heaven, our true home.

Jesus takes on our human nature. Jesus came from heaven. He was – is – one with God the Father.

Once He took on our human nature, He elevated our human nature to a divine level. Our human nature, which is tarnished, flawed by sin. Our human nature, which causes us to stumble and fall, to sin and cause harm to others. This is the mystery we celebrated at Christmas. Jesus always lived – and lives – in heaven. Yet at Christmas, He took on our human nature – why? To see what it was like in human skin?

He took on our human nature in order to refashion it on the cross.

He, who never sinned, Who was pure and holy always before God, took on all of our sins, all of our ugliness, all of the hurt and pain that we inflict on others, and He nailed all these to the cross along with His own flesh. When He was arrested on Good Friday, did Jesus complain to the temple guard or to the high priest, “Hey, I didn’t do anything! Let me go!” No, and neither did He lash out at His captors. Scripture says that He was “like a lamb led to the slaughter, He opened not His mouth.” This is the essence of the sacrifice He performed in giving Himself freely for our Redemption.

By rising from the dead, He proved that death is not the end; not the end for Him, and not the end for us. By His resurrection, He gave us hope that Life reigns supreme in all creation, not death.

Yet, by His ascension into heaven and taking up His seat at the right hand of the Father, Jesus gives us an even more glorious hope, the hope that our human nature is capable of sharing His throne in heaven.

Each and every human being, regardless of how well or ill disposed we are to them, shares this human nature with Jesus Christ who is now seated at the Father’s right hand in glory.

If we follow Jesus in His life death and resurrection, we too can share that throne with Him

If we follow Jesus in His life: Jesus has existed from all eternity, from the beginning of creation. Yet when we say He came down from heaven, we mean that He entered into time from eternity. In a way, He willingly left behind all that is good and perfect in order to share our messy human nature. Jesus had in all in heaven. Any one of us would have called Him a fool for leaving all that behind. That’s how much He loves us. Are we willing to leave behind what is comfortable to us and reach out to those who need our help? Are we willing to put aside our wants and desires to lift up another person, who shares in Jesus’ human nature, just as we do?

If we follow Jesus in His death: Jesus endured a mightily unfair trial, full of hypocritical judges, yet He never opened His mouth once to condemn them, or to point out their unfair practices. He never tried to defend Himself. In fact, He even said, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down freely. I have the power to lay it down and the power to take it up again.” Do we have the willingness to put aside our own will and do what is most difficult? Do we have the courage to say yes to sacrifices we need to make in our lives out of love for one another? Let us pray that we may be able to join those sacrifices to that of Christ.

If we follow Jesus in His resurrection: Jesus gave hope to His disciples. We share in Jesus’ resurrection when we pray and spend time with those who are sick and suffering, frightened and perhaps dying. These are very difficult moments, but they are wonderful opportunities to share with them the fact that Life always triumphs and that death has no power, thanks to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just like the two disciples on the walk to Emmaus, the Way, Truth and Life is right before our eyes, yet sometimes because of our circumstances, we do not recognize Him. Let our eyes be opened in the Breaking of the Bread.

Let us follow Jesus in His Ascension: The Ascension should remind us that our true home is heaven. The Ascension should make us homesick for heaven. Every time I look at the news or try to update myself on what is happening in the world, I get homesick for heaven. It seems that the world around me wants to cut God out of the picture. One family called in to a talk show and voiced their anger at Disney World for not allowing them to express their thanks to God in a place designated for posting tributes. I often ask, what is this world coming to?

Yet, being homesick for heaven does not mean neglecting this life on earth. By our joining our efforts with those of Jesus Christ, we can reshape the world around us. In the novena of days between the Ascension and the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us pray that the Lord send His Holy Spirit to truly renew the face of the earth!

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