Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; I Peter 3: 15-18; John 14: 15-21
We are quickly approaching those two great feasts of the Lord’s Ascension into heaven and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, bringing the Easter Season to its conclusion. It can be beneficial for us to reflect beforehand on these feasts, as our Mass readings prepare us to do, so let’s look at next Sunday’s feast of the Ascension.
Today’s Gospel tells us Jesus’ words to his apostles the night before he died: In a little while the world will no longer see me. After he rose from the dead, only a few of the disciples saw him on Easter morning–the ones chosen to be the first witnesses that Jesus was really alive, the First-born from the dead. He commissioned them to proclaim boldly, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, that Jesus who had been crucified and killed was no longer dead; he had risen to new life, a far greater sort of life, the new life of the resurrection.
The world can no longer see him. And those who did see him were told that his relationship with them could not now be as it had been before, for he said he must return to the Father. But I will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit. No longer would his presence be limited to mere bodily contact or proximity; Jesus would be completely with us all days, even to the end of the world. His Spirit would henceforth fill all creation with divine life. While the new heaven and new earth are still to come, we have nonetheless already begun to live the reality of his divine presence, penetrating the whole world
Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love them and reveal myself to them…I will come to you. You will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.
Before we leave this morning’s Mass for our regular duties, we will come forward to receive the Body of Christ and drink the blood of the Risen Lord. Receiving Holy Communion is a profound and sacred moment in every Catholic’s life. Some are even able to receive him in their hearts daily; it is the gift that God has given us, his children, as a demonstration of his so great love for us.
But what were those words Jesus said at the last supper, which we heard read to us not long ago? On that day ypou will realize that I am in the Father and you are in me and I in you. Did Jesus mean for that to apply only when we receive Holy Communion? Or does he mean something more far-reaching than that? Does he mean that he is ever in me and I in him just as he is always in the Father and the Father is in him? Theirs’ is a lasting presence that never fades or disappears, a continual dwelling within each other. Is that also what the Lord has within me?
Did not St. Paul assure the first Christians that they were temples of the Holy Spirit? And did not Jesus say on the night of his resurrection, when he breathed his risen life into the apostles, Receive the Holy Spirit? Was that to last only for a brief moment? Or is Jesus telling us that since his resurrection from the dead, he is now truly present to us in a new and more intimate way than before he died? He is within me and I am within him. To accomplish this, it was necessary for Jesus that he left us bodily in order to be truly with us in a new way, as he promised–he within me, I within him.
Do we find this a challenging thought? That he is with me all the time…? In everything I do? Indeed, we know that nothing is hidden from God, so think it through now. In the mystery of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord, all my human activities and thoughts are taken up into his own divine life. Our whole life is made holy for those who live in Jesus. We are indeed children of the resurrection, even in the present life. If we grasp the gift which God has given us, we can truly say, we celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy.