Tag Archives: Ascension

The Ascension; the authority of absolute victory.

Ascension imageCan Catholicism ever be a private matter?

Which is to ask can belief in Jesus Christ be a private matter – ever?

Think about it – this figure enters human history and overcomes death. The claims associated with Jesus of Nazareth demand serious investigation by every human being on the planet.

The feasts we celebrate during the Easter season – Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost – are seismic.

Today we’ve reached Christ’s Ascension which gives purpose and direction to the Resurrection. Otherwise he’d still be roaming the earth in his resurrected body – eternally wandering with no home to go to! Home is important.

There are three parts to the Ascension; firstly the resurrection itself, secondly the power to judge (every man and woman) and thirdly, sitting at Gods right hand in glory.

From his place at God’s right hand he sends the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) thus fulfilling his promise not to leave us orphans but to come back. Unfortunately, many of us experience God as though we are orphans!

Jesus says that this Spirit will lead us to the truth. What is this truth? It’s not truth as facts, or the truth of particular happenings or events but truth as a person, God, who is absolute Truth. So “the truth will set you free” means that God will set you free. Two things happen when we experience the absolute Truth through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Firstly, we understand that we’ve ‘discovered’ the universal meaning and purpose of life – our universal home. Secondly, we see the glories of this world for what they are – trifles!

How do we get to this point?

The answer is in the Gospel; the eleven go to meet him, to the mountain where Jesus had agreed to meet them. The mountain is significant – the road to God is always likened to climbing a mountain.

On the mountain they meet him. Think of the effort involved in climbing a mountain – that’s what practicing the faith is about. When they climb the mountain they see Christ ascending – when we practice the faith properly we should begin to see things too; they fall down, though some hesitated. Some are still not sure, bewildered, and incredulous; it’s too much for them. It is; it’s seismic!

With absolute authority and power the risen Jesus walks up to them and the words that fall from his mouth are sovereign; “all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father…” – it’s the authority of absolute victory.

What’s strikingly obvious about this claim – as with all Jesus’ claims – is that there’s no middle ground, it’s absolute. No surprise there because if the figure of Jesus of Nazareth really is the son of God then it cannot be otherwise. There can’t be a middle ground! There’s nowhere else to go and every detail of human life must be built on him, our response to him cannot be a private affair. It just can’t!

If he is who he says he is and we build human life on something else then it seems reasonable to assume that at some point there’ll be an adjustment!

Sixth Sunday of Easter: How terribly discriminatory of Jesus!

Sixth Sunday of Easter Image“In a short time the world will no longer see me…”

The short time is his death (Good Friday), resurrection (Easter Sunday) and ascension (next Sunday).

After these events the “world” no longer sees him but Jesus makes a distinction – those who love him do “see” him.

How terribly discriminatory of Jesus!

So how is it that some “see” him and others don’t?

He promised to come back, to show himself, to enter into our lives and he achieves this through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost Sunday).

Have you ever noticed how it’s impossible to get inside another person’s life, how the other person is always totally other. This is not so with God, God is Spirit and thus able to enter our bodies and provided we co-operate the Spirit then draws us deeper and deeper into God. “On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.”

But we must co-operate. He says there are some, those whom he calls “the world” that can never receive him. Jesus, you’ll get yourself in trouble speaking about secular society like that!

In other words there are conditions attached to receiving Jesus Christ – shock, horror – that’ll send a few over the edge! It troubles me when I hear religious people speak of God’s unconditional love. It indicates they know little about the spiritual life. If by unconditional they mean God’s love is always offered, always available, that’s fine, no problem there. But God’s love is of little use to us if it’s always offered, always available but always out there and remote. We need him within. But if they mean by unconditional that there are no conditions to receiving Jesus Christ, that’s nonsense. Rubbish! Of course there are conditions, otherwise everybody would know Jesus Christ!

Jesus clearly states two such conditions in today’s Gospel. Indeed the whole teaching is prefaced by the conditions.

1. If you love me – for many that means a radical reorientation of life.
2. If you love me you will keep my commandments – the experience of receiving Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is simultaneously experienced as a call to a moral standard that simply cannot be detached from the person of Jesus Christ.

“If you love me you will keep my commandments, (and then) I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate…”

A word of caution: this is not instant, it requires spiritual growth over many years.

Fifth Sunday of Easter: Jesus Christ, the joy of Catholicism

 

"When we pray properly sorrows disappear like snow before the sun"

St. John Vianney: When we pray properly sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.

It’s sometime before his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension.

Thus when he says he’s going away he’s talking about a future event.

It’s most interesting though to observe the meaning he gives to his going away. His going away is not his death, but his death, resurrection and ascension, and in going away he’s not abandoning us.

Thus in the teaching of Jesus Christ death is not the final end event, but part of something much greater. We need to begin to think in this way. For the believer life opens upwardly to the splendour of God. For the unbeliever life (ultimately) must narrow downwardly to the grave!

He is going away (death, resurrection and ascension) “to prepare a place for you…” This is personal.

Have you ever noticed that you can’t really walk in another person’s shoes, that no matter how close you might be to another person, that person is always separate, uniquely other? There’s a sense in which in the end there’s only God and you in the universe!

Jesus promises that after he’s gone (death, resurrection and ascension) he’ll come back to take you with him. It’s so personal.

We tend to think of this returning as death but that misses so much of the picture – most of all it misses the joy at the heart of our religion.

The returning to take us with him is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) through whom God enters into our lives, not in the future, but now. We’re taken up into the Divine life. We’re given a “place” in the Divine life. This is what Jesus means when he speaks of “rooms in my Father’s house” – it’s a share in God’s life. Try to imagine what happens when the Divine life begins to enter our lives; a transformation begins. Thus we find the Saints saying things like; “When we pray properlysorrows disappear like snow before the sun.” St. John Vianney. The all powerful God mingles his life with ours – pure joy! 

This is what makes the Catholic. Without Him religion falls flat. In fact, I’ll go much further and say; this is the joy of life, never mind Catholicism!

We don’t inherit the kingdom because we’re good people. We inherit the kingdom because God has given us a place (or room) in his Divine life and God by his very nature can’t be held captive by death.