Today is a very special day for us as followers of Christ. We remember the Lord’s ascension when Jesus was taken up from the company of His disciples to go to the Father in heaven. It marked the end of another phase in His public ministry on earth, but the beginning of a new chapter for us in our relationship with the Lord.
Let us meditate on this extraordinary moment for a while.
Think about how the disciples must have felt as they watched Him being taken up in body, rising into the clouds before them. Having witnessed His death, celebrated His resurrection, then being in His beloved company for forty days, and now to see Him leave them behind once more, I can only imagine that they must have had mixed emotions. I know that I would have felt twisted inside: ‘Lord, we know that you must go and be with the Father, but don’t leave, we need You here!’ Yes, Lord, we need You here.
I recall the presence of people who I liked and were dear in my life: people who made me laugh; people who would light up the room whenever they walked in; people who emitted the ‘fragrance’ of God by their actions; people who gave me sage advice; people who encouraged me; people who lived a good life by their example. Then they went away. It can leave one feeling heartbroken, or that a part of you has been cut off. How much more so if it was the Lord Himself!
Every person has felt the pain of a departure, including times when we have had to leave others ourselves. But those who leave us never really leave our hearts and memories and will always be a part of who we were and will be. They shape us. Their voices echo in our souls. That is how I think it must have been for the disciples. They were with the Christ, the Son of God, and although He withdrew from them up into the sky and was eventually out of their sight, I am sure that like those on the road to Emmaus, they still felt Him burning in their hearts.
It is especially when we feel lonely, when we sense an emptiness in our lives and do not know what to do, when we wonder if He cares for us, that we must look up and know that He is there. One day, for those who are still alive on earth, we will see Him come again in the same manner. That is His promise and our hope.
In a broader sense, the ascension event also asks us to go higher – to look above and beyond earthly matters. When we look at Jesus ascending we want to follow Him and rise above our problems, pains, and sorrows at ground level. We want to focus on our heavenly home where He is. We want to know that with the help of the Holy Spirit, who comes at Pentecost, that we have the strength to cope because of what Jesus teaches us in the Gospels, and then carry His message to others.
It is most crucial to understand that the ascension of Jesus is not just about His leaving – it is also about His ‘Great Commission’. In other words, He left us some ‘homework’ to do so that, as His hands and feet on earth, we are all charged with the mission of continuing His example throughout our lives. It was not as if the disciples, upon seeing Him no more, could simply throw up their arms and say, ‘Well, that was that, now what?’ It is about maintaining an ongoing zeal for Him and His commandments. And Jesus knew that this would be challenging, so He promised that the Holy Spirit would be sent to them. Isn’t it grand? Isn’t that just the best plan ever? Does this not prove that God has it all worked out for us?
So look up friends and do not lose hope, because we know from this hymn that:
Alleluia! not as orphans
Are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! he is near us,
Faith believes, nor questions how:
Though the cloud from sight received him,
When the forty days were o’er,
Shall our hearts forget his promise,
“I am with you ever-more”?
(Verse 2 from ‘Alleluia! Sing to Jesus’ – Rev. 5:9; William C. Dix ; Tune: Hyfrydol, Rowland H. Prichard)
We also remember today that it is one hundred and one years since the first apparition of Our Lady to the three shepherd children at Fatima on 13 May 1917, and in Australia we celebrate Mother’s Day. How appropriate that these events should coincide this year!
We give thanks to God for our mothers – those living and those with God – for the selfless giving of their lives and service for us, for granting us life through our birth, for being examples of God’s love in the world, and for their care and affection. May God bless them forever. And for those who may not have experienced this love from their mothers, or whose mothers are no longer alive, we remember that Mary is our perpetual mother who is with us so intimately in every moment – let us pray to her and talk to her.
Image Credit: Pietro della Vecchia – Ascension of Christ [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons