Remember the gospel account of the transfiguration? Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain and He was transfigured before them. They had a religious experience of the true person of Jesus. They were allowed a glimpse into the reality of His divinity. In the telling of this experience they had to use human terms – his face shone like the sun, his garments became white as light. They tried to express this awesome insight into Jesus in words that could only limit their experience – remember the saying, ‘there are some things you cannot put into words’?
We have the same thing in today’s readings that try to describe the reality of the Ascension of Jesus.
In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul tells us that Jesus emptied Himself of His divinity and embraced our humanity – Jesus became one like us in all things. He was obedient even to dying on the cross so that we could be one again with God. Because of this God the Father raised Jesus from the dead and brought Jesus back to the glory Jesus has with the Father from all eternity. This is what Luke in Acts and in the Gospel describes in the symbolic but limited language we have in today’s readings – Jesus is lifted up, a cloud takes Him out of their sight – Luke knew,’ there are some things you just cannot put into words.’
But think on this. By returning to His Father Jesus made a great act of faith in us. Jesus could have stayed with His disciples. He could have continued to preach the good news of God’s love. He could have continued to work miracles, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless. He could have continued to cleanse lepers, call cripples to stand and walk. He could have, but He didn’t. Instead Jesus removed Himself from being physically present to us to make room for us His followers to complete His work on earth. Jesus had enough faith in His Apostles, enough faith in each one of us, to complete His work on earth.
On the mount of the transfiguration Peter blurted out, ‘Lord it is good for us to be here.’ We have a bit of the same in our first reading, the disciples didn’t want to loose the experience of the glory of Jesus. In their own way they said, ‘it is good for us to be here’. They were hooked on the wonderful. Using human terms Luke tells of two men in white intruding into their moment of awe with the words,’ why are you standing here looking up toward heaven?’ You have work to do. You are to complete His work.
We’ve all heard the saying; “I have no hands but yours, no eyes but yours, nor ears but yours, no heart but yours” to complete My work on earth.
The feast of the Ascension is the feast of our commissioning – our being sent out to complete His work on earth. In our own limited ways, in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, in our work places, in our places of play we can, if we want to, bring the love, peace, healing and the forgiveness of Christ to others. In the ordinary living of our ordinary lives we can, if we want to, relieve suffering, end loneliness, heal the wounds that divide us from other, promote understanding and respect for those who think and live differently from ourselves. In the ordinary living of our ordinary lives we can, if we want to, do what we can about the poverty in this city, the homelessness in this city. In the ordinary living of our ordinary lives, we can, if we want to, work toward the healing of the earth by changing our lifestyles so we can live gently on the earth. In the ordinary living of our ordinary lives, we can, if we want to, complete His work on earth.
Maybe we can imagine the feast of the Ascension in this way; Jesus steps aside so as not to get in our way so that we can complete His work on earth.
As we continue to celebrate this feast of the Ascension, we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we will be graced to be worthy of the trust Christ has placed in us and in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives realize that Christ’s work must truly be our own.