In today's gospel reading from St. John we hear the words of Jesus as he continues to prepare the disciples for his departure from this world. This reading then is an appropriate one as we prepare to celebrate tomorrow the feast of the Ascension. (Actually where I live in Omaha we celebrated the Ascension on Thursday.)
It seems to me that there are several indications in this reading of the importance Jesus attaches to his words. He tells the disciples that he is going to abandon his previous custom of frequently using figures of speech and parables to help them to understand his teaching. Jesus now will speak very plainly and directly to them. He seems to be saying that the time has come for him to speak more openly and forcefully to them. Not only because his time with them on earth is growing short, but also because they are now ready to understand when he speaks more plainly. Then we have Jesus telling the disciples that they have not yet asked anything in his name. And I think he means this literally. The disciples were content during much of Jesus's public life to be observers of the miracles that he worked. We don't often hear of them requesting that he work miracles for themselves or others. Nor do they fully understand all that Jesus can do for them and the necessity of asking for his help. Now, as Jesus is preparing to leave this world, it is very important that the disciples learn to call on Jesus and always seek his help when he is no longer with them in his earthly body. Jesus knows what a difficult task he is giving them in the foundation of his church, and he knows very well how much they will depend on his help during their labors.
And here I think the words of Jesus were addressed not only to his disciples when he was on earth. I think they are also addressed to all of us who know and love and follow Jesus today. We all need the help of God in our daily lives. But in order to seek the help of God we must first realize that God can help us and that we need his help. Then we can come to him and beg his help with all the troubles and problems and difficulties that come to each of us in our daily lives. We then can follow the advice of Jesus in that beautiful line from this gospel: "ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete."
Here again we can follow the example of the apostles and disciples of Jesus. Their lives after the Ascension reveal the great joy they attained in doing the work of God. They are an example for us of the joy that is possible when we seek to know, love, and serve God in our lives. To come to experience that joy we must begin, as they did, by heeding the words of Jesus given to us today. We must begin by learning to ask God to help us in all our needs. As we prepare to celebrate once again the Feast of the Ascension, let us pray for the grace to listen to and hear Jesus speak plainly to us. And may his words lead us to always seek his help when we need it.