Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Ascension of the Lord

The evangelical preacher, Jack Graham, tells the story of a man who brought his young son and daughter to the beach. While they were jumping around in the waves, a powerful riptide began to drag them out to sea. The father, realizing that he would be able to save only one of them, called out to his daughter, "Honey, listen to me! I'm going to bring your brother to shore. I want you to float on your back like you learned in your swimming lessons. You can do that for a long time. Then Daddy promises he will come and find you." The daughter, her voice trembling, said "Okay, Daddy", and the father fought the riptide to bring his son to shore.

Once on the beach, the father cried frantically for help. Someone offered the use of his boat, and they put out to look for the girl.

The father was sick with worry as he called out his daughter's name over the waves. After about an hour, they found her floating on her back just as her father had told her to do.

Getting her to safety on the boat, the father, overjoyed at finding his daughter, hugged her and said, "I'm so proud of you, honey! You were so brave!"

The daughter, shivering in his arms replied, "Daddy, I just did what you told me to because I knew you would come back for me."

"I just did what you told me because I knew you would come back for me."

The faith and courage this young girl displayed in trusting that her father would come back for her is the same faith and courage we are called to have on this day when we celebrate the ascension of Jesus to his throne in heaven.

First of all, we are to believe that Jesus is coming again. We have not been abandoned by God. We are not left to drift aimlessly through a life devoid of meaning and purpose. Rather we are called to have an active expectation that he will come back for us. As the young men dressed in white tell the apostles after Jesus ascended to heaven, "This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."

Whether it is at the time of our death or at the end of the world, we will come face to face with our Savior. It will be a time of judgment when the deeds we have done and the intentions of our heart are laid bare in the light of his glory. It will also be a time of mercy when the one who died for us will welcome us into the joy of heaven. No matter how far off it may seem, that expectation must be the driving force of our life. Like the girl in the story, it is what gives us courage as we face our daily difficulties and fears. It helps us to realize that whatever challenges we are facing are only temporary. We know that we have been created for something more than this world can offer. We also know that this world is passing away and that our hearts are set on the kingdom of heaven.

Secondly, while we wait for Jesus to come back for us, we must do what he tells us. God's Word is meant to keep us safe as we make our way through the waves of this life on earth. Just as the girl focused on the instructions her father gave her while she waited for him to rescue her, we are to keep God's commandments in mind, especially the great commandment of love. During the forty days between his resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven, Jesus was preparing the apostles for the mission they were to undertake after he would be taken from them. He helped them to understand how the Scriptures foretold that his death would be a ransom for our sins and how he would overcome death. The words of Jesus have been left to us in the Bible and in the teaching of the Church. Also, the Holy Spirit which we received in baptism gives us the power to live that teaching so that we will be kept safe up to the time when Jesus will come back for us.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. On this feast of the Ascension of our Lord to his throne in heaven, we recall that Jesus will one day come again to make the Father's will done on earth as it is in heaven. When he does come again, we want to be found to be faithful to his word in the power of the Spirit he gave us. Then we can say to him, "I just did what you told me, because I knew you would come back for me."

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