Brett Fawcett

WORD MADE FLESH

Ascension of the Lord – May 17, 2015
Acts 1.1-11 | Psalm 47 | Ephesians 4.1-13 | Mark 16.15-20
May 4, 2015

The skeptical philosopher Gotthold Lessing once wrote that it was impossible to know whether the miracles of Jesus, including the resurrection, had ever happened, since the historical distance between the events of the Gospels and our time is too great for us to have confidence in their accuracy.

Lessing called this the "great ugly ditch" between us and Jesus which is impossible to cross.

As they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. – Acts 1.9

'As they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.'

Acts 1.9

In today's reading from Acts, we hear that Jesus has, indeed, been taken "out of our sight." The disciples had asked him whether he was about to restore the kingdom, whether he was about to usher in the messianic golden age of global peace.

Instead, he disappears into what the mystics call "the cloud of unknowing," which carries him to the Father's right hand and forever out of the grasp of our desire for security and control.

Rather than setting up an earthly empire, he lets a great, ugly ditch open up between himself and all of his future followers and asks of them a faith big enough to reach over that ditch. In the ascension, he conceals his power from us. The humility of the ascension is the humility of the cross.

This does not mean Jesus has left us without any proof that he is Lord. The First Reading also mentions that he showed the disciples "many convincing proofs" of his resurrection.

But since the ascension, it is the disciples who are given the mission of sharing those proofs with the world. They – that is, we – are his "witnesses", and, in today's Gospel reading, we are told God "confirmed" the preaching of the apostles with many miraculous signs, such as speaking in tongues, exorcisms and so on.

The Spirit working through the proclamation of the Gospel is the One who offers "convincing proofs"; indeed, the Spirit is the convincing proof that Jesus is Lord.

This is why it is so important for us to do an examen as often as we can. The examen is a technique recommended by St. Ignatius of Loyola whereby we reflect on all the times throughout the day that God was present to us.

Veiled in the heavens

Oftentimes, our minds and spirits can be afflicted with doubts about God's providence, goodness or even his very existence. This is the result of Christ's humility in veiling himself behind the heavens in the ascension.

It is true that there are many solid arguments for our faith, from philosophical proofs that God exists to the case for the historical reliability of the New Testament.

However, the convincing proof of the Gospels is the activity of the Spirit in our lives: In the liturgy, in acts of service and selflessness, or in the reality of joy, which Teilhard de Chardin called an "infallible sign of God's presence."

Always be sensitive to the Spirit. He may not always speak in tongues, but he will always be a still, small voice in the silence, even the silence of God.