The Ascension occurred in the life of Jesus when he left his followers, 40 days after the Resurrection and returned to His Father in heaven. ‘Why now?’ the disciples could be thinking as He disappeared from their sight and left them with his command to go out to all the world and be like him and spread the gospel. How could they do it without Him? His ascending is a loss for them. He is absent, or so it seems.
The disciples were never going to find this absence easy, as two struggled to recognise Jesus after the Resurrection on the road to Emmaus. Mary Magdalen thought he was the gardener at the empty tomb. Thomas needed proof that Jesus was the Christ and Peter’s old and trusted successes at fishing no longer satisfied. Jesus offered them peace, but they huddled together in the upper room, frightened and confused.
Like the disciples after the Ascension, we have also known moments of wondering why God seems to have disappeared. We can struggle finding God in today’s church and world, where violence, war, pandemics, natural disasters, scandals, abuse of power and a felt lack of welcome in our local parishes keeps us isolated.
How then, can we be open to the emerging ‘new’ that Jesus promised when he said: “It is better for you that I go away! You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy. If I don’t go away, you will be unable to receive my spirit. Don’t cling to me, I must ascend.” (Jn 16:7,8) and ‘lifting up his hands, he blessed them’. (Lk 24:50)
The ascension of Jesus into heaven is not only about absence. Pope Francis would say “it tells us that He is living among us in a new way”. After all, Jesus did promise to be with us always and that ‘the Spirit of truth…You know him, because he abides with you and will be in you’. (Jn 15:17)
What is this new way? How is Jesus blessing us now? What gifts of the Holy Spirit are you noticing?
Earlier this month, Pope Francis met with the international leaders of women’s religious congregations in Rome. He warned that ‘frozen nuns were useless’ and consecrated life needed to be integrated into the life of today’s Church. How will we meet that challenge?
All of us need Pentecost to gift us with a new spirit and blessings to live the life we are living now, different from the one we have already lived. What do we need to let go of? Where are the signs of new life emerging for us?
Spirit, come transform us!
Sr Kerrie Cusack
Writings and reflections of Ron Rolheiser omi and Mary Pellegrino C.S.J
Herlinger, C., DeGeorge, G. and White, C., 2022. UISG plenary concludes, calling sisters to renewal, transformation and inclusivity. Global Sisters Report.
McGlone, M., 15 May 2022. Ascension of the Lord: It’s now your turn. National Catholic Reporter.