From sight to faith: The Ascension of Jesus
Sunday 24 May 2020
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Homily: Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A)
There is a journey to be made with Jesus at his Ascension – it is a journey from sight to faith, from bodily absence to spiritual presence; from the earthly to the heavenly. I want to say something about this journey today.
The disciples felt the nature of this journey acutely in the way in which Jesus parted from them. As the scriptures tell us, Jesus was lifted up from among them; he withdrew from them; he was taken away from them into heaven; yet he promised to be with them always.
These disciples had been with Jesus for three years; they were his friends. In recent days, they had come to experience the deepest of loss and grief in his death, yet also the elation and wonder of his resurrection. For forty days now, Jesus had continued to accompany them in mysterious ways – bodily present and alive among them, yet he was somehow already beyond them.
Now, at a moment when they probably felt nothing more could be experienced, Jesus took his disciples on another journey – a journey where he would no longer be with them bodily, but promised to accompany them at a deeper, more fundamental level – for life and in their lives. No longer with them physically, Jesus would remain with his friends spiritually. No longer by sight, now by faith.
This journey from the Ascension, as we now know, is also the journey into Pentecost, from loss into gain, and from absence into presence. It is a journey that the disciples made in the week ahead, but which we make all the time. For this journey is about how the heavenly abode of Jesus is made earthly for us in the Spirit. It is the grace of faith as it is seen and heard and experienced in the world. It is the journey of our spiritual life felt in our bodies.
The Ascension of Jesus, and his promised ongoing presence in his Spirit places us now in a realm of living in-between as an ‘on-the-way’ people. Our Christian life – lived among our families and in our neighbourhoods – is a pilgrimage to our true homeland. We are God’s pilgrim people. And our pilgrimage, made in this all-too-real passing world, means we are to be on the move.
Our task is not to achieve contentment, but to live by faith. We are not to be consumed by pleasure but filled with joy. Hope is our dynamic work, not the static attainment of satisfaction. Peace is what we constantly pursue, for we will always be dissatisfied by mere tranquility. We are pilgrims, not wanderers.
Today, as we remember how Jesus ascended from bodily sight into spiritual presence, let us choose to make this same journey with him, that each of us in our lives may reach towards its full and complete destiny.