SJ Easter Altar 2024


Posted : May-08-2024

It seems at first that as our Lord is taken from the Apostles’ sight, the Ascension is the end of His closeness to them. Might it perhaps have seemed to them rather like hearing that a loved one, whose imminent death had been announced, has then happily seemed to go into remission, only to find that it was a false dawn, and our loved one has been snatched away from us after all? Yet this was not the Disciples’ reaction. St. Mark, in the Gospel we hear today, tells us that at His Ascension Our Lord commanded the Apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”

     St. Mark then tells us that this is exactly what the Apostles did: “They went forth and preached everywhere…” Not only were they clearly not bowed down with grief, but they were also endowed with great courage. Having been locked away in the Upper Room after Our Lord’s death, out of fear, they were now no longer afraid to go abroad. This was because, as St. Mark tells us: “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it”. So far from being taken from them, Our Lord is with them and works with them. It is only His bodily presence that has been taken from them, so that they no longer have sight of Him. He is “with them always, until the end of the world”, as Our Lord promised according to St. Matthew (Mt.28:20), and “will not leave them orphans”, as St. John writes (Jn. 14:18).

     Interestingly, St. John tells us nothing about the Ascension. His Gospel ends with Our Lord’s appearance to the Apostles on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee). But it was on that occasion that Our Lord alluded to His future return in glory when He said of St. John “If I want him to stay behind until I return…”. It is that yet-to-come return on the Last Day which we now await in hope, which inspires joy in us today, as the Collect (Opening Prayer) of the Mass says: “Almighty God, make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and, where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.” We therefore remind ourselves that this life is not our final destiny. Heaven is our true home, and Christ has gone before us to prepare us a place to be with Him for all eternity”.         ~ FR. PAUL DOBSON