Psalm 145:10-11, 12-13, 21
"In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead..."
"If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father..."
Memory time: In my early days as a Jesuit novice or scholastic, I played music at a lot of liturgies. There was a group of us that used to come up with contemporary songs that we could sing at Mass. We never actually did sing these then, but we thought it would be a real kick if... If we sang Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" that had the lyric: "Everybody must get stoned" on the day this first reading was read (or, for that matter, on the feast of St. Stephen the Martyr). Hey, what did you do for fun in college?
Anyway, I am heartened by the way Jesus seems to note that there's a place for both love and fear in the hearts of his disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled.... If you loved me, you would rejoice...."
We're about ten days away from the feast of the Ascension now and our scripture readings are guiding our thoughts toward that feast. For me, this is one of the great celebrations of paradox in the Church year: It's about abandonment. It's about going home.
So, the Church takes this passage in which Jesus continues to prepare the disciples for his departure - his departure on the cross (Note that there is no Ascension in John's Gospel. Jesus doesn't go anywhere in the Fourth Gospel!) - and associates it with both Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus will depart soon.
Departures are rarely much fun for those being left, right? They're times of sorrow and possibly confusion or disorientation. Graduation, moving to a new place, a relationship that ends, death, depression - all these and many other things are departures in which folks experience being left. "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid...."
But, going home, going to where one was always meant to be, is a mighty fine thing. And that's what the Church celebrates in the Ascension: Jesus goes to where he belongs, he goes home. Home for Jesus is the heart of God, the bosom of the Father. Jesus goes, "not to abandon us, but to be our hope... where he has gone, we hope to follow." (Preface for the Ascension I). Thus, his departure is about our final home-going, heading to that place where we belong - the heart of God.
Let us celebrate this paradox today as we anticipate ritualizing
both sorrow and joy, fear and love, in the Ascension of the Lord.
PS: Happy 16th birthday to my niece, Kristyn, today! God bless
your dear life.
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