I apologize for the less than timely posting of this homily of Fr. Jim’s. Ascension has come and gone….or maybe come and gone up and away (sorry, it may be the drugs)….but my surgery precluded any chance to post this…..Reyanna
Acts 1: 1-11 • Ephesians 1: 17-23 • Matthew 28: 16-20 7 Easter A’14 (Ascension)
Weekly Scripture Readings: Seventh Sunday of Easter(Ascension)
Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!) “…Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” We presume we know, but still we struggle to understand what “Resurrection” means; what “Ascension” means.
The gospels of Matthew and Luke were written at least forty years after the death/resurrection of Jesus. By that time the original witnesses were either deceased or well advanced in years. Their descendents, those 2nd and 3rd generation Christians, trusted the stories they had received. They wanted to keep the memories alive. This influenced the shape and content of both gospels. They are not biographies to be read literally, but theological documents written to strengthen the Easter faith of those 2nd or 3rd generation Christians and their descendents.
The worldview of those who wrote these gospels limited their ability to speak of their experience. In my youth I thought God was up there! So did the gospel writers. Thus, Matthew and Luke speak of Jesus as physically ascending into the clouds. John makes no reference to “ascension.”
Since we humans first looked up at the stars, our cosmology or the worldview through which we view reality has changed dramatically. Today’s physics and a variety of highly refined space telescopes and Earth based observatories provide us with an abundance of information about the cosmos. Our knowledge far exceeds anything we knew in the 20th century.
Astronomers are convinced there are at least three hundred billion galaxies, each with billions, and billions and billions of stars. The cosmos is immense, expanding ever outward, and we barely understand the extent and complexity of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. It no longer makes sense to think of Jesus physically ascending into heaven. So what do this story tell us?
Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!) Something unique, strange, and extraordinary happened to Jesus of Nazareth. He was murdered. Yet his closest companions claimed he was alive. Those first generation Christians experienced his presence and spirit, and struggled to grasp what is beyond our ability to comprehend. “…Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”
They were awakened to a larger reality, a new kind of consciousness. They were convinced he was alive in the fullness of life in God. While they both needed and wanted to share their experience of the Risen One, they lacked words capable of expressing their experience.
Modern poets like Rilke and Hopkins still try to find the words. I borrow from their efforts:
“In you is the presence that will be, when all the stars are dead.”
This presence is “the Christ.” (Rilke)
“…each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
What I do is me: for that I came.
The just man justices; keeps grace;
acts in God’s eye what in Gods eye he is – Christ…” (Hopkins)
Like these poets we struggle to understand and continue to affirm, Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!)
It is only the inner eye of love that sees the depth of divine goodness hidden in ordinary life. “God is love!” Ultimately the Christ Mystery – the passage of Jesus from this life, through death, into the fullness of life with God, is about us. We are part of who God is, and God is part of who we are. As we become more fully human and more fully alive, that Gracious Mystery we name God becomes more evident in us. To be one with God in love is to become like Christ. All who become like Christ will be raised up from death, exalted, ascended into the fullness of life.
It seems the some poets like Rilke or Gerard Manly Hopkins understood,
“each mortal thing does one thing and the same: What I do is me: for that I came. The just man justices; keeps grace; acts in God’s eye what in Gods eye he is – Christ “