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May 13, 2018 - Ascension: God's Enduring Trust in Humanity

The Ascension of the Lord

Scripture Readings

Today is the Feast of the Ascension. On the one hand, this feast is the culmination of Christ’s life. Jesus came from the Father and now he returns to the Father. However, I would like to approach the feast from the perspective of the disciples.  As I see it, this feast is also a celebration of God’s enduring trust in humanity. Let me explain. Think about one time in your life when you were in total awe of something that happened to you. Perhaps it was walking down the aisle with your just-married spouse, or holding your first-born for the first time, or holding the diploma after graduation, or receiving the appointment letter to a job you really wanted. I am thinking of my ordination my ordination. I remember having just been anointed by the bishop. A very strange feeling overcame me. It was the feeling of an awesome sense of privilege, unworthiness, and immense responsibility all the same time. I saw my Ordination both as God anointing me and God putting God’s trust in me. I wonder if this is how the disciples felt at Ascension. 

I am approaching this feast from the perspective of God’s enduring trust in humanity. Three ways in which God shows God’s enduring trust in us.  

a) God’s Enduring Trust in Humanity. When God created the first human beings God gifted them with two great gifts – reason (intelligence) and freedom. God took a great risk by giving them these two gifts. Using these gifts, I am sure the first human beings did many things right. We also know that they used their intelligence and freedom to make choices contrary to God’s will. In spite of this history and the checkered history of the people of Israel, when time came, God entrusted humanity with God’s Son. We know the mess that people made up of that story. Not only did they crucify him but except for one disciple, a few women, and his mother, everyone abandoned him. That reality did not change even after the resurrection. His post-resurrection appearances reveal to us a frightened, disillusioned, downcast, and despairing community. Now, as Jesus is about to leave the earth, he gathered this community one more time. He then does the very thing that God had done over the centuries. He entrusts the church and the gospel into the hands of his disciples. Through Jesus, God shows God’s enduring trust in humanity. What Christ did with the disciples that first Ascension, Christ has done with us. At our baptism, not only did we become part of the Body of Christ. At our baptism, the church and the gospel is entrusted to us.  

b) Christ Entrusts Us His Presence. Christ’s promise to his disciples was that he would continue to be with him until the end of the age. This presence served a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, Christ’s presence strengthened the church and gave them hope. On the other hand, and this is the awesome part of the promise. Christ’s hands his presence to his disciples. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." The disciples must now take the presence to share it with the world. What does this mean for us? This means in spite of our past history of success or failure, God’s enduring trust in us continues. The way the world will come to know Christ is in our hands. Sometimes Christ’s followers have done terrible things in his name. On the other hand, the Christ of the gospels, the one who mingled with tax-collectors and sinners, the one who showed mercy, compassion and love, the one who made God accessible to all has also been entrusted to us. This is Christ’s mandate to us – that we entrust his presence to the world.  

c) Our Life, Family, Work, and Everything Else – God’s Act of Trust. There is just one more thing. There is more than Christ, the Church and the Gospel that have been entrusted to us. The life that each one of us has is God’s enduring trust in us. The family we have is God’s enduring trust in us. Our work and profession is God’s enduring act of trust. With our life, in our families, and in all that we do – I hope we are honoring God’s enduring trust in us. All that we are and all that we have – I hope Christ is coming through is all of it. What God entrusted to us, one day I hope we can entrust it back to God with confidence.  

Christ has ascended into heaven. Yet his presence is in every Eucharist. Once again Christ will entrust himself to us. As we leave this Church, let us take him to our homes, to our work, indeed into the world. 

- Fr. Satish Joseph