Reflection on The Feast of the Ascension
Fr John Allen Green OFM – The view I have of God and the view I have of myself are intricately entwined. Knowing our original source gives me a firm direction towards my ultimate goal; gives me also the wisdom by which I come to direct my life. Without this there is a great emptiness in our hearts that nothing, no experience or possession, and no other human can ever fill.
The Jesus event of God with us as the source shows us the blueprint of who we are called to be. It is for this reason that every moment of the Jesus event points to our own destiny. The Ascension of Jesus the Christ points to His Divine identity but points to my own destiny also.
The Ascension Points to Our Own Destiny
The promise of “God with us”, which we as Christians acknowledge in the Jesus event, however, now appears shattered as Jesus leaves the world, sandals and all. God appears to have gone home, and we are left as “poor banished children of Eve”. “A little time longer and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Now I am going to the one who sent me … (But I will be with you until the end of time.)… and grief has filled your hearts.”
Jesus tells his disciples: But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation, sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; Condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
The first part of this is quite easy to follow; sin indeed leads to disbelief and suffering. Sin blinds me through my prejudice, emotions and special attachments so that I create idolatrous relationships with money or power or prestige or even other creatures. Sin blinds me to my own motives and manipulation. Sin blinds me to my own complicity in the systemic world powers of domination and exploitation. Sin always leads me to blame others so that I cannot see my own need of redemption. Sin blinds me to the Truth; blinds me to believing and blinds me to seeing Jesus. Sin leads me into isolation and away from the communion of the Mystical Body that we are called to within the church.
The call to repentance must be made in every age but is even more needed now as we move away from truth and towards a subjective reality in which I become the total measure of what is.
An Outflow of Lies
We have entered an age of “post truth” that places us in opposition to the transcendent and away from God; away from Truth. In the past, governments, institutions and newspapers certainly manipulated news and information. Today, anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account can do so. Instead of the carefully curated fake news of old, there is now an anarchic outflow of lies. What is Truth? Just as elite institutions have lost their grip over the electorate, so their ability to act as gatekeepers to news, opportunities and the wealth of nations, defining what is and is not true, has also eroded and our communities are beginning to disintegrate.
“Alternative” truth rooted in “alternative” facts, draws on a set of concepts that are being used to challenge the power of established truths by insisting that what constitute “facts” or “knowledge” is always relative to a particular context, culture or group.
Our ability to integrate gospel values becomes a clash of cultures in which we no longer have a common language; we have constructed a new tower of Babel. This reflects the Bible’s apocalyptic vision emanating from a continual struggle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world, a conflict which does not gradually come to an end with the progress of history, but which, on the contrary, reaches a climax and is intensified as history draws to a close.
As we continue to lose sight of the humanity of Jesus the Christ, ascended to the Father in glory, we simultaneously lose sight of our own vocation to the transcendent; our own Divinisation. Humanity has become a commodity; a clot of blood; parasite destroying its own habitat.
How can we turn away from the shiny allure of the kingdom of this world and the self-destructive abyss that lies in front of us? Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus is the Advocate who leads the way. Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven allows us to know this reality that is so consoling on our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity has been brought to God. He has opened the way. He is like the leader of a mountain climbing party that is roped together. He has reached the summit and pulls us to himself, leading us to God.
If we entrust our lives to Him, if we let ourselves be guided by Him, we are certain of being in safe hands.”
Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread
Like the disciples, I also come to recognise Jesus at the breaking of bread. Through my sharing in the body and blood of Jesus, I come also to share in his divine life and to recognise that divine life present in all my brothers and sisters.
Just as this is about the re-ordering and restoring the relationships between ourselves and the communality and with God, the Ascension of the Lord is about Union and Re-Union; this was the mission of Jesus as this is our mission also. Pope Francis reminds us that the Ascension doesn’t indicate Jesus’ absence, but rather it tells us that He is living among us in a new way. He is no longer in a particular place in the world as He was before the Ascension. The nature of this world is to dominate and to manipulate and the presence of Jesus in a particular space would lead us to a destruction as we attempt to claim God as our own particular totem.
Now He is in the Lordship of God, present in every space and time, close to each of us. In our lives we are never alone: we have this Advocate who awaits us and defends us. We are never alone. The crucified and risen Lord guides us. With us there are many brothers and sisters who, in their family life and their work, in their problems and difficulties, in their joys and hopes, daily live the faith and bring, together with us, the Lordship of God’s love to the world.
In Jesus Christ, risen and ascended into Heaven, we have an Advocate. But above all we have the hope of our own destiny. In no other time and in no other place has such good news for All God’s creation been available to you and to me.