The word “ascension” itself congers up images of Jesus rising up into the clouds to join the Father and the Holy Spirit somewhere “up there”…far, far away. The problem with this is it can lead us to believe that heaven is “up there” and we are “down here” and that God is far off and distant from us, and from our lives.
This is in stark contrast to the heart and soul of the meaning and significance of the incarnation. The truth of our God having become “incarnate” (in the flesh) in Jesus, which means that God is with us…and not off, watching us from afar.
We need to recall Jesus’ promise…“behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) These simple words are most profound… there is no need for us to stand gawking skyward with our jaws hanging open. While the physical presence of Jesus Christ as a singular human and divine presence no longer walks the earth in the same flesh as before, be assured that Christ is right here -- as close to us as our own breath -- keeping us alive to be his presence in our world.
As we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, let us celebrate the presence of the Risen One in our midst! Not far off from us, but actually within us, as Jesus told the disciples…“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” (Jn. 14:20)
Before his ascension Jesus gave a clear command and mission to his disciples…and to us. We are charged with preaching the “Good News” of Jesus Christ and called to be a healing, loving and welcoming presence in a world filled with sickness, hatred and exclusion. And the way that we are empowered to take on such herculean tasks is precisely because of this indwelling of The Divine within us.
We must in this time of such turmoil and suffering in our world, open up ourselves, at our deepest levels, to this Divine presence within us and allow the Holy Spirit and the Risen Christ to guide us into personal and communal action aimed at building the “beloved community” where all persons are loved, respected, and valued and included -- just as they are! Just as Jesus loves them and accepts. Just as he loved and accepted the Samaritan woman at the well with all of her former husbands, and just as he did with the tax collector and cheat, Zacchaeus, whose home he chose to dine in before Zacchaeus had the chance to repent for his way of life. Jesus loves us as he finds us and then that love transforms us into better people.
Emboldened by this Divine presence within me, how can I be a “healing, loving and welcoming presence” to the immigrant, the refugee and to those who experience discrimination, racism and bigotry, and sexism?
Let us ask ourselves, how do I “preach” the Good News of Jesus Christ to my family, friends, coworkers, and to those in political power?
And how and where do I experience the presence of the Risen Christ in my life, and how does that experience of the Risen Christ impact my relationships with people, with nature and creation, and with my relationship to material things?