Gospel reflection: When Jesus seems far away

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Year C)

Detail, "Ascension" by John Singleton Copley, 1775. Photo: Public Domain

The Ascension can feel like a lonely feast. Just as the disciples were still reveling in the joy of having Jesus with them, he leaves them a second time. One can only imagine the pithy comments they might have exchanged in response to the question, “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” “He’s leaving — again!”

St. Augustine invites us to ponder this “loneliness” in another way. He writes, in his sermon for the Ascension of the Lord, “While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power, and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.” And he continues, “the body as a unity cannot be separated from [Christ] the head.”

Little wonder, then, that love became the hallmark of the early Christian communities, just as it must mark us. As members of Christ’s body, indelibly joined to him in the waters of Baptism, we are called to pour ourselves out as Jesus did, so that the world will recognize in us not just the hands but the face of Christ as well. And when we meet the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, the naked, we will recognize in them Christ the head of the body. And we, the members of that body, won’t ever be lonely again.

— Bernadette Gasslein

“Ascension” by John Singleton Copley, 1775. Photo: Public Domain

Readings for the Ascension of the Lord:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Ephesians 1:17-23 or Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23

Luke 24:46-53

Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter:

Acts 7:55-60

Psalm 97:1-2, 6-7, 9

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20

John 17:20-26

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