Monday, May 18, 2015

Ascension--Something New

Rembrandt's Ascension
The paschal or “Passover” mystery of Jesus Christ includes not only his death and resurrection but also his ascension, and the descent of the Spirit of God upon the disciples at Pentecost.

These are all different aspects of Jesus' passage from this earthy life through death into a new, indescribable, transformed, heavenly reality—a reality that anticipates our own future.

Jesus takes his final leave in the ascension so something new can happen: the descent of the Spirit of God on Pentecost.  The ascension signals the close of Jesus’ earthy ministry; and heralds the beginning of the Church’s ministry--the proclamation of the “Good News”--Jesus is alive--“to the ends of the earth,” to quote the author.

Paul in his letter to the Christian community at Ephesus prays that we will grow in wisdom and enlightenment so that we will see more clearly God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. Jesus is indeed the “head” of the “body,” the Church, the people of God.  And we with our multi talents are called to build up this “body of Christ,” the Mystical Body of Christ.

And in the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus tells the disciples to be missionary, to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. They are now the “hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice” of the Living Christ until He comes again in glory at the end time to transform this universe into a new, indescribable reality.

The living Christ has created new relationships for us—with God and with one another.   And in light of this, I would like to pose three questions:

First, what makes you feel alive?  Gazing up at the sky? Experiencing the awesomeness of Niagara Falls or Grand Canyon? Watching a space shuttle lift off?   Watching your favorite team win an exciting game? Hearing Tony Bennett or Katy Perry sing? Any of these experiences, and many more, can make us feel alive.  What energizes you?

Second question: what does it mean to be alive in Christ?  We have been gifted with God’s triune life in Baptism, our initiation into a community of disciples.   To understand the significance, we have to appreciate who we are in relation to God.  The author of Genesis describes how man and woman initially had friendship with God.  But somehow or other they lost that friendship; they fell from grace.  Man and woman disconnected from God.  God became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth to re-connect us.    God through the crucified and risen Christ re-established that friendship.   And through the waters of baptism we enter into this community of disciples, this fellowship of grace, alive in Christ.

And the third question is:  How alive are we in Christ?  The Spirit of God is within us, to bring about the design of God on this planet of ours.  That Spirit calls us to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ until He comes again in glory.  We are indeed his “hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice.”

The Spirit of God empowers us to become channels or instruments of faith, hope, love; channels of forgiveness, compassion, truth, fairness, hospitality, fidelity, responsibility and self-discipline, in our families, our workplaces and communities.

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