Fr. John’s Homily – Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ
When we read of “the eleven” in Matthew’s Gospel we recognize immediately that things have not gone well. The one that has made “the twelve” one less, now “the eleven” is Judas. His betrayal ushered in Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Judas is that one who found no reason for hope. Recall last Sunday’s words from the First Letter of Peter, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for the reason for your hope.” Matthew’s gospel warns us, “And if the light in you is darkness, how great will that darkness be.” (Mt 6: 23) In whatever misguided thought or direct evil intent brought about Judas’ act of betrayal, it left him hopeless with a light that was darkness, set on a course of self-destruction.
The eleven share in the fullness of the Father’s love shown in Christ: a love that has reconciled the Apostles’ abandonment and Peter’s denial of Jesus. This love imparts hope as St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” Paul writes of the call of God to salvation, to reconciliation, to communion with the love of God: the love that was rejected and denied but which prevailed and presents anew to you and me. It is a love that calls us to worship and will accompany even our doubts, enabling us “to observe all that I have commanded you.” It is a love with us always.
It is the love that met the tears of Mary of Magdala’s grief at Jesus’ death and as she thought the cruel theft of his body. It is the love that waked among the foolishness of the disciples despondent at their inability to recognize the victory of the one who explained the scriptures and presented himself in the breaking of the bread: the victor over sin and death. It is the love that calls forth three times Peter’s renewal of love with the charge: “feed my lambs”, tend my sheep”, and “feed my sheep”. It is a love that is the reason of our hope.
The doubts that were yet with the disciples perhaps presented in their longing for a restored Kingdom of Israel as noted in Luke’s Acts. Jesus’ Kingdom, the Kingdom of the Father, the Kingdom of God is as Jesus told Pilate one that “does not belong to this world”. (JN 18: 36) Yet it is a kingdom “among you”. (LK 17: 21) It is also in Luke’s last supper narrative, a kingdom conferred upon the eleven. (LK 22: 29)
The “where” of Jesus which we found so much of concern in John’s Gospel now has Jesus as noted in John’s Prologue back to: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God,”. Jesus has gone to the Father in his glorified flesh, through the advocacy of the Spirit, yet remains with you and me always. Jesus, indeed the Father, and the Spirit as well are with us that we might know them and through them come to eternal life.
The Ascension is not our being orphaned; it is but an opening to the Spirit. In the Spirit, we are made sons and daughters of the Father through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the First Born of many children of God in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At his return may Jesus find us even if doubtful at worship and observing all his commandments and making disciples of all.