A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

For many of us this time of lockdown has been extremely difficult. Not only has our daily routine been disrupted and we have been prevented from going about the most routine of tasks in a way we could not have imagined only months ago, we have also had to stay away from our families and friends; those who are most important to us.

Of course modern technology means that some contact is possible. We can ‘phone, text, WhatsApp and many of us are becoming all too familiar with meeting by Zoom, Teams or Skype.

But for me none of these electronic encounters are the same as being in the company of others, not the same as meeting personally, you cannot interact in quite the same way. An electronic or virtual encounter, is not the same as a physical one.

This Solemnity of the Ascension is all about encounters.

When Jesus left his disciples we learnt a lot about the strength of their relationship. We learnt about their friendship and the shared hopes that had grown between them.

This parting was no ordinary parting and no ordinary farewell. Jesus’ ministry on earth was coming to an end and he had to ascend to his rightful place at his Father’s right hand. But Jesus was not abandoning his disciples, nor was he leaving them to fend for themselves.

Through his Spirit He was to remain with them, he would be with them after his ascension just as certainly as he had been before, but in a different way.

In the same way that it has been difficult for us at times to adjust to lockdown so it was difficult for the disciples to adjust to this change. They had been with Jesus, talked with him, eaten with him and witnessed his miracles, but now he was to be taken from their sight.

They had only just got over the great sadness when they had thought that they had lost him to death, and here they are about to lose him again. Even though Jesus had promised to always be with them in the Spirit, it wasn’t easy to understand and they still felt great loss. It was incredibly hard for them to adjust to him not being there in person.

If it is hard for the disciples how much harder is it for us to feel the presence of Christ? We have who not experienced his presence on earth, have not heard his voice or touched his hand as the disciples did.

We have to trust in his word and believe in the Spirit but sometimes, just like for the disciples, it can be a challenge.

Jesus is clear that his parting is for a purpose, and that those who follow him share that purpose. They are to be in a very real sense the earthly presence of Jesus. Everything they do, is done in his name and with his authority. Through his Spirit they represent fully the one who has sent them.

The Solemnity of the Ascension reminds us that our purpose, our calling, is the same as the disciples: to be Christ present in the world.

In every encounter, no matter who it is with or in what circumstances it takes place, we meet someone who, like us, is trying to deal with the struggles and demands of everyday life.

Every encounter is an opportunity for us to show Christ present, to show that the words of the Gospels are real and meaningful.

As we slowly begin to return to some sort of normality let us try and ensure that every encounter, virtual or physical, long or short; is a significant one. That we share with those whom we meet some of the love, compassion and mercy that Jesus shared with those whom he encountered.