MAY 29, 2003, THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD
HOMILY: JOHN 16:16-20
IN A LITTLE WHILE YOU WILL NOT SEE ME, AND AGAIN A LITTLE WHILE YOU WILL SEE ME... AND YOUR SORROW WILL BE TURNED INTO JOY. The Ascension of Jesus is the completion of his Resurrection from the dead. For by the Ascension he enters into the presence of the Father in his glorified humanity and thus completes the mission which was the very purpose of his going forth from the Father at the Incarnation. St. Luke in his Gospel depicts the Ascension as taking place on Easter day itself. It was only later, when he wrote the Acts of the Apostles that he portrays the Ascension as taking place on the fortieth day after he rose. For only then did he cease to appear in visible form to his disciples and move among them. Thus it would seem that Jesus, without delay, entered as the glorified Son into the Fathers presence face to face, and that it was from the Father that he appeared during the forty days following in ways that were sufficiently familiar to his disciples as to reassure them of the reality of his resurrection. A further purpose of the appearances during this period was to prepare them for the coming of ths Holy Spirit.
In todays Gospel Jesus words are spoken at the Last Supper as a preparation and a promise. By predicting his departure through death he wished to prepare them so that they would realize that it was a part of a larger design that would end in joy. His departure through death was an occasion of their failure to stand by him as matters turned out. So they had sorrow upon sorrow. But only for a short time. For then he would return to them and his return would fill their hearts with the joy that does not fade or end; it is eternal, being the fruit of union with the Spirit of God himself.
This joy is not a passing state of mind and spirit; it is a quiet and abiding disposition of the soul. For it is based on the assurance that Jesus has been made Lord and Christ by the Father. By the Ascension his relation to us continues and even is strengthened. Being exalted to the right hand of the Father, his ministry to us as members of his mystical body, the Church, attains its fullest efficacy. In him our human nature already shares in the transcendent life of the Father. He is eternally man as well as the Divine Word of God; he remains our mediator with the Father now and will continue in that function for all eternity. Our knowledge of the Father, direct though it be in the beatific vision, will be known in and through the glorified Savior. The prayer we make at the end of each preface expresses this truth: Through him, with him and in him is to you, Father Almighty, all honor and glory, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end.
The great task assigned to each of us is to become as worthy as we can of this destined greatness. As St. Bernard indicates in one of his sermons for the Ascension of our Lord, "Let us follow the Lamb wherever he goes. Let us follow him as he suffers, let us follow him as well as he rises, and much more willingly let us follow him as he ascends." (Sermo de Ascensione 6.3) He who is now glorified is the same who humbled himself for our sake and went so far as to accept mockery, scorn and finally death. He became an example that we might learn from him to treasure the things that are eternal- life with him and the Father in glory. He shows us as well that to love the things that are of God we must learn to detach ourselves from the desires and satisfactions offered by this world. This was the purpose of Jesus life among us, Bernard goes on to affirm, to draw our affection away from the passing things of this world and to attach our hearts to himself. May our affection as well as our mind accompany our Savior today as he returns to the Father of lights and of glory, for where he now abides, there is our true home. The one to whom he returns is also our Father and the goal of our striving. As we offer this Eucharist in memory of the new life of his resurrection and ascension we are given in communion some taste of the good things to come. May we make it our resolve to prove worthy of the heavenly life to which he invites us by our fidelity to his word and to the example of his life.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
© Abbey of the Genesee: All Rights Reserved