Tag Archives: Ascension

7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, 2018

It was in the New York Times that I read the story of a Jewish rabbi and a world famous financial investor who had met through their wives and had become friends. The investor was born of a Christian family and sang in the choir of his Protestant church in his youth, although he later on gave up religion.

The rabbi’s wife prevailed upon her husband to ask their friend to invest their life’s savings in stocks and bonds. He made the investment, which in 25 years yielded 25 million dollars.

The reason that the two men were featured in the good-size article was that the rabbi and his wife had recently given one third of their fortune to the theological seminary in which he had prepared for his ministry.

The two men were asked how a friendship between such unlike persons had ever begun and then endured for such a long time. The rabbi answered, “We both felt that the business of life is to be decent to one another and to live with compassion and not indifference,”

It’s hard to think of a statement that comes closer to the sentiments of Jesus.

We’ve just completed the many weeks of Easter and Ascension, when the church put before us a Jesus who was preparing his followers for his physical absence, when they would no longer see him or hear him. He is reminding them of what he had taught. He is encouraging them to stay close to him as he is close to the One that he called Father. And he is cautioning them not to be deceived or won over by the world’s spirit of greed and selfishness and idolatry.

If we are going to be faithful to Jesus’ wish for us, we need all the inspirational help that we can get. Jesus said, “Let your good works shine before others so that, when they see them, they too will give glory to God.” I think that also implies that we need to look for and pay close attention to people who are saying things like —

+This war is immoral. Human lives are more precious than a nation’s treasury.

+This doesn’t belong to me. I cannot keep it. I have no right to it.

+We don’t always have to make business decisions. We must also make decisions from the heart. These workers have families and children.

+ She’s gone home to God. She lives, and we can receive from her some of the peace and happiness she now enjoys in perfect union with our Creator.

+Sex is about love. It’s not for domination or intimidation or barter or selfish pleasure.

+A baby is a human being with inalienable rights whether in the womb or outside it.

+Women are as fully human beings as are men. By God’s design they have every right that men have.

+I won’t buy or wear clothes or shoes or anything else that I suspect was made by the slave labor of children and the oppressed poor in third-world countries.

And so on…

We call ourselves sons and daughters of the Resurrection. That cannot mean that the promise of eternal life and happiness in the world-to-come relieves us of responsibility in this mortal life here on earth or allows us to go the world’s self-serving way. Quite the opposite: it imposes on us the heavy responsibility to know the mind and heart of Jesus and to make him the ultimate and practical standard of everything we say and do.

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ASCENSION 2017

Our ancestors concocted wonderful and enduring stories about the mysteries of faith, taking them from what they saw around them. For example, they marveled at how a potter makes a beautiful vase out of a lump of clay, and they said “That’s how God made us!” The facts were wrong, but the message was right: that God is the creator of all that is, and that human beings were created to resemble that God in ways not possible for any other creature.

It is the meaning of what they thought and said and wrote that counts, not what facts it contains or doesn’t contain. They didn’t have access to those facts, as we do today. But fundamentalists even now insist that the Bible can make no error of any kind, and they calculate, therefore, that the universe is only 6,000 years old – while solid science tells us that the universe is some 15 billion years old!

What is written in the Bible about the feast we are celebrating today is a significant case in point. Consider that, of the four gospel authors and St. Paul, out of those five, Luke is the only one who has left us with a step-by-step account of the events of Jesus’ life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension. Nowhere else in the Bible will you find the purported “facts” that he offers. John bunches up the Resurrection of Jesus, his Ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples into one brief day. Mark and Matthew make no mention of an Ascension; they tell only of Jesus’ Resurrection. And Paul, the first New Testament writer – before Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — treats the two events, Resurrection and Ascension, as if they were one and the same.

So, we’re not going to get much in the way of factual reliability from those five! But who should care about a little contradiction here & there? Like a good spice, it makes the story tastier!

It is the meaning of what is passed on that is the important thing, not whether or not it is historically or scientifically accurate. The scriptures, let us say again & again, are not history books; they are not biographies; they are expressions of faith.

There’s a message for us in these Ascension accounts and references; namely, that we who have heard and accepted Jesus as the ultimate life-giver, the ultimate expression of the mystery that we call God, are called, not only to believe, but to imitate! We are to carry on what he began: a ministry of love, healing, forgiveness, and peacemaking. We are to do that, not depending on our limited human resources alone, but on the Divine Spirit whom God would share with us always. The story of his “Ascension,” even though it may not have been the lifting of his living body skyward, implies that he is with God in a total union of the most intense love and that we are here to be him to others by allowing the Spirit that worked through him to work through us.

He has left us — only to be with us always!