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John's Jottings

Asension 2017

Acts 1:1-11, Eph. 1:17-23, Luke 24:46-53

 

Christianity is a religion of encounter and today we celebrate that Jesus ascended to heaven so that it could be so.


The mission of Jesus is to go and make disciples of all nations, the angels seemed a bit impatient even to start the job… “why are you standing there looking at the sky.” In other words, it is time to get to work. Of course, they needed the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to really charge them up and let them understand the concept that the people of the world will encounter Jesus Christ through its believers, or Christs visible appearance abides in the unity of believers, or the mysterious Body of Christ.


The Jews in the time of Jesus and even some Jews today believe the Messiah will come to develop a physical nation, as the nation of Israel is today, and the Messiah would sit on a throne ordering everyone and everything about. I am always amazed at the smallness of the vision they had of the Messiah. In a way, as the disciple looked to heaven maybe they were thinking does Jesus come back soon to rule us, when does the Kingdom of God begin? It had begun. The first people to hear the Good News of course were the Jews, from the time of Abraham they were chosen for just that, a new kingdom of God. But again, if Jesus would not have ascended and stayed it would have ended up being a Jewish cult in a small middle eastern country. But by ascending to heaven it magnified the peripheries of the Gospel message. This message of Jesus was to transform the whole world not just a small group of Jews.


Let’s get back to this encounter concept. The beautiful prayer of St. Paul prays for his disciples. He prays that God gives them a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him,” and he goes on to say “…he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the Church which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” This prayer is reminder how broad and all-encompassing Christianity is. It tells us that the Church, which is us, is the Body of Christ. The Church, as institution, encounters the world, the Church, the body, who is you, encounters the individual. Thank God, the people of the world don’t just encounter us as individuals without the Holy Spirit, but when I am speaking of Christ things and doing Christ things they encounter Christ. It is also important that Christ is best encountered in a unity of believers. In other words, Christ is made present in any corner of the world, at any time of the day or night, ( Karl Adam) with a “continual emergence of new forms.”. But because of you and your “yes” to God, to Jesus Christ, our yes to the Catholic Church and to the work of being present to the whole world, Jesus can use our hands as His to heal the sick, caress the wounded of heart, embrace whose who are lost, and write beautiful words. We can use our eyes to see as Jesus and how he looks at us… we can look at others. Our feet are to walk with him in prayer, with others when they need someone to listen and to take Jesus to all parts of the world.


Our world has a great need to encounter Jesus. It looks in all kinds of places for an encounter with God. Some look to nature, often they come close, some look to academics, or power and wealth, some hedonism. Some go to occult practices, and some succumb to their wounds and hurts and seek God in violence on themselves and others. Some seek violence to force an encounter with their god into the world. Our God, who is Father, Son and Spirit never uses violence, but compassion, forgiveness, service to the to all people whether poor or wealthy. Love that will take on whatever sacrifice is needed to bring it into the world. My friends let love be the encounter others have with Christ. No matter what it takes.


So, what are you doing here looking up here, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” And that last line is so hopeful, “…I am with you always, until the end of time.”

 

God Bless all of you,


Fr. John, O.S.B.

 

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