Among other things, the Ascension of Our Lord marks the removal of our spiritual training wheels. Unless we experience Jesus' absence, we will never grow up. Unless we learn to make our own mistakes and learn from them, we will not develop a sense of balance, compassion and justice. More importantly, unless Jesus leaves us we will never experience much less appreciate the power of God within us: the Holy Spirit.
That awkward time between the Ascension and Pentecost was necessary to remind the apostles---and us--that without God we can do nothing, but with God there is nothing we cannot do.
The Ascension also celebrates the holiness, not just of humanity but of all creation. When Jesus ascended into heaven he took his glorified human body with him. His human, albeit resurrected, body was made from the elements of the world around him. Even after rising from the dead, Jesus is recorded as having eaten bread and fish. In other words, God continues to interact with the material world of nature.
The Ascension of our Lord into heaven completes the mystery of the Incarnation when God became human. When the Holy Spirit descended on the Blessed Virgin Mary and she conceived Jesus, her humanity did not explode. You might say that humanity, created from the beginning in the image and likeness of God, was designed specifically to receive the Holy Spirit. Conversely, from all eternity God was prepared for the ultimate marriage between divinity and humanity which was consummated when Jesus ascended body and soul, humanity and divinity into heaven. The Trinity did not implode when he ascended with his human nature into the Godhead. This says as much about God as it does about us. Christmas celebrates God with us; The Ascension celebrates us with God.
Jesus came to earth to take away our sin, that is, our alienation, not just between humans and God but also between humans with one another and between all creation and our Creator. Through the incarnation and ascension of Jesus, all creation participates in the life of God. As such, we must be as deferential and respectful of creation as we are of the bread and wine that become the body and blood of Christ.
Church law mandates that the bread must be made of pure wheat flour with no yeast, that is, no corruption. The wine, too, must be made from grapes with no preservatives and at least 12 percent alcohol.
If we are so careful to safeguard the purity of the material that, through the words of consecration and the Holy Spirit, will become the Body and Blood of Christ, shouldn't we be equally careful of the elements of the world around us that participate in the reign of God and the new creation?
At the Ascension two angels appeared and asked, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand there staring into the sky?" Yes, Jesus has disappeared from our sight but he has not left us. What's more, we have a lot of work to do here on earth. People deserve to know the Good News of what Jesus has done for us. People are literally dying to know their sins are forgiven. People have a right to hear that Jesus saved the world.
If you truly believe Jesus has saved the world, now is the time for all people of faith and good will to do our part and save the earth.
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is only the latest outrage against the environment. Our air is polluted, our rivers contaminated, our oceans dying, our rain forests disappearing. As disciples of Christ who believe God became human on this planet and who consecrated the earth by his presence, we have an obligation to clean up the various messes we humans have made.
We honor God when we take care of the world God made and gave us. We can still save our environment by being mindful of how we live on the earth and of our impact on it. And we can hold individuals as well as companies responsible and accountable for their actions. Let us do our part to clean up our world so one day we, too, as sons and daughters of God, can point with pride to our earth and pray, "Our Father in heaven, look what we can do!"
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